Just as the name suggests, kennel cough is an infectious disease that involves the respiratory system of dogs, with one of the most recognizable symptoms being coughing. Although this disease is highly infectious, it is usually not life-threatening.
But, as with any illness, you should always get your pet checked out and diagnosed by a veterinarian, who can recommend the proper treatment.
What Exactly is Kennel Cough and Its Symptoms?
Although many people use the term “kennel cough” to describe a number of respiratory ailments that cause coughing and inflammation of the respiratory system, there are several possible culprits when it comes to cause.
Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is usually caused by a virus or bacteria. It can be caused by the canine parainfluenza virus, canine distemper, canine adenovirus 1 and 2, canine respiratory coronavirus, and the bacteria, bordetella bronchiseptica.
The symptoms of tracheobronchitis can include coughing, hacking, wretching, discharge from the mouth, or nose, lethargy, loss of appetite and fever. Sometimes, the persistent coughing may seem like the dog has something caught in his throat. Also, the coughing will be most apparent after the dog exercises or gets excited.
It is not uncommon for dogs to seem alert and normal except for the persistent coughing. In some cases, the dog will not show any symptoms at all, but can still infect other dogs.
How Does a Dog get Kennel Cough?
Tracheobronchitis is highly contagious and can be transmitted through the air via coughing and sneezing. The virus or bacteria can also contaminate surfaces and be spread through physical contact with that surface.
The name kennel cough became commonly used because dogs will contract the illness when in close quarters with other dogs, such as in a boarding or kennel situation. Of course, that doesn’t mean those are the only ways dogs can get the illness. Any place, whether at a dog park, in someone’s home, or even in a vet’s waiting room, is a possible place for infection.
Symptoms of the illness can appear about one week after exposure to the bacteria or virus. In a healthy dog, the illness should get better without treatment in about 1 to 3 weeks depending on whether the cause was viral or bacterial.
To be safe, you should always consult with your veterinarian. In some cases, if left untreated, infectious tracheobronchitis can develop into more serious bronchitis or pneumonia. As with most illnesses, puppies, elderly dogs, and dogs with compromised immune systems are at most risk.
How is it Treated?
The best thing to do for your dog if he exhibits symptoms of tracheobronchitis is to visit the veterinarian and have a thorough checkup and get a diagnosis. Diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms of tracheobronchitis and not with blood tests or cultures, although those may also be performed.
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the vet may prescribe a cough suppressant to ease discomfort, or
provide additional medication such as an antibiotic, a bronchodilator to make breathing easier, and steroids to reduce inflammation.
Your dog will also have to be isolated from other animals to prevent spreading the disease. And although this illness is most commonly found among dogs, it can be spread to cats.
It’s also advisable to clean and disinfect anything that your dog has come into contact with.
What Can I Do to Prevent It?
Pet vaccinations can provide some protection against this illness, but isn’t a guarantee. There are pros and cons of pet vaccinations. Your pet will have some protection against tracheobronchitis with their regular core vaccines that cover distemper and canine adenovirus.
You can ask your vet about getting additional protection with injectable or intranasal vaccines for bordetella and parainfluenza. If you do decide to get those vaccinations, it will take a few days before he is protected against the illness.
Also be aware that your pet might exhibit mild symptoms of tracheobronchitis and may be contagious for the disease. It’s best to keep your dog away from other animals after the vaccinations are given. Consult with your vet about how long before and after vaccinations your dog should be isolated.
Of course, because this disease is spread from animal to animal, the most obvious way you can try and prevent your dog from contracting the illness is to avoid contact with other dogs and cats.
Can I Catch the Illness?
It is not usual for humans to get infected by a dog’s respiratory illness, but it is not impossible. As with any illness, the very young, the very old, and those people with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to catching any number of illnesses, even from animals, so care should be taken.