Kennel Cough: Everything You Need to Know About This Common Dog Illness

Pet owners understand the importance of keeping their dogs healthy and happy. However, there are times when our furry friends can develop illnesses, just like humans. One such common illness in dogs is kennel cough. In this article, we will explore what kennel cough is, its symptoms, causes, treatment options, and whether vaccination is necessary.

What Exactly is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough, scientifically known as infectious bronchitis, is a respiratory illness that affects dogs. It is caused by a combination of different bacteria and viruses, much like how chest infections affect humans. The key symptom of kennel cough is a distinctive, forceful cough, which can sound like your dog has something stuck in their throat.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Apart from the persistent cough, dogs with kennel cough generally appear healthy. However, some may experience additional symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, or eye discharge. It’s important to note that their appetite usually remains intact.

Is Kennel Cough Dangerous?

While kennel cough is usually not life-threatening, it can be more serious for puppies, older dogs, or those with existing health conditions. In rare cases, it can even develop into pneumonia. The severity of the condition depends on the specific strains of bacteria or viruses that have caused the infection.

How is Kennel Cough Transmitted?

Kennel cough is highly contagious and can spread through the air, making it easy for the infection to spread rapidly in crowded environments such as kennels. It can also be transmitted through objects like toys or food bowls that have been contaminated with bacteria. Dogs that are stressed, exposed to cigarette smoke, or have weakened immune systems are more susceptible to contracting kennel cough.

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Diagnosing Kennel Cough

Diagnosing kennel cough is not a straightforward task. There is no single test to confirm the condition. Veterinarians usually rely on a dog’s symptoms and exposure to other canines within the incubation period. In some cases, swabs may be taken to determine the specific virus or bacteria causing the illness. Radiographs can also be used to assess a dog’s condition if there are suspected complications.

Treatment Options

In most cases, dogs will recover from kennel cough without any specific treatment within three weeks. However, to aid in their recovery, it’s essential to ensure their immediate environment is well-ventilated. Avoid using collars and leads during walks, as pulling can further irritate the windpipe. Instead, opt for a harness. Antibiotics may be prescribed to kill the bacteria causing kennel cough, and cough suppressants or anti-inflammatories can be given to provide comfort during the recovery process.

Prevention: To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?

Vaccination for kennel cough is available. Some of the common viruses and bacteria that cause kennel cough can be included in a dog’s regular vaccinations. However, the most prevalent bacterium, Bordetella bronchiseptica, which causes kennel cough, requires a separate vaccine. This vaccine can be administered through nasal drops or injection.

It’s important to note that the vaccine does not guarantee complete protection against all strains of kennel cough, but it can help reduce the severity of symptoms. The nasal vaccine for Bordetella bronchiseptica can be given to dogs as young as three weeks old and provides protection for approximately 12 months. Keep in mind that vaccinations are not effective for dogs already incubating kennel cough.

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Many boarding kennels require dogs to have the Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccine before their stay. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if vaccination is necessary based on your dog’s individual needs and lifestyle.

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Remember, a healthy dog is a happy dog, so be proactive in caring for your pet’s well-being!