Kennel Cough: A Dog’s Version of the Common Cold

Kennel cough, also called canine tracheobronchitis, is an infectious disease similar to bronchitis or a cold in people. It causes a dog’s upper respiratory system to be inflamed. Kennel cough gets its name from the fact that dogs in close quarters like kennels tend to get the disease more easily and spread it more.

There are two kinds of kennel cough: viral and bacterial, but both kinds are spread through sneezing and coughing. It can also be caught through infected contaminated surfaces like toys, sidewalks, or other areas.

The most common viral agent that causes kennel cough is parainfluenza virus, and if a dog gets the bacterial version, the likely cause is the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium. It’s estimated that about 90 percent of the cases of kennel cough are caused by the Bordetella bacterium. However, there are other organisms that can cause kennel cough and often the disease is caused by several infectious agents at the same time.

Other pets such as cats and rabbits can catch kennel cough, and some research has even shown that humans with compromised immune systems can sometimes catch the bacterial version of kennel cough.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

The main symptom of kennel cough is a harsh, croup like barking cough that sounds like there is something stuck in the dog’s throat. The cough usually occurs when the dog has exerted itself or gotten excited. Most dogs with kennel cough usually don’t lose their appetite and tend to act normally.

However, other symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting up phlegm
  • Gagging
  • Sneezing
  • Watery Nasal Discharge

Symptoms can appear about 3 to 5 days after a dog is exposed to the disease. If not treated, it can lead to something more serious, such as pneumonia. It usually lasts from about 10-20 days, but can break out all over again if the dog is put into a stressful situation when it’s not completely well. In addition, a dog can pass on the disease up to four months after symptoms have passed.

Your veterinarian can confirm if your dog has kennel cough by using X-rays, blood tests and cultures.

If a dog’s symptoms don’t improve after about a week, you should take them back for a reexamination by your veterinarian. It’s possible the dog has some other underlying problem, or the disease has progressed to something like pneumonia. If this happens, the situation is much more serious than regular kennel cough.

Treatment for Kennel Cough

Infected dogs are given antibiotics if they have the bacterial form of kennel cough. Both types can be treated with a cough suppressant to help ease the hacking cough. Dogs that contract the viral version are given supportive care, as it is usually not serious and antibiotics don’t work on any type of virus.

Sometimes pressure on the dog’s throat can make the coughing worse, so it’s recommended that an infected dog wear a head collar or harness instead of a neck collar.

Dogs with kennel cough should get plenty of rest and be kept warm and comfortable. A humidifier can be used to keep the air moist and humid to help relieve the dog’s suffering, but be sure the humidity isn’t greater than 50 percent.

You can also try giving your dog a vaporizing type treatment by taking him into a bathroom, closing the door and running the show until it steams up the room. The dog should be allowed to breathe in the steam for about 20 minutes to help clear up the mucus in their lungs. This will help your dog to feel better since he will be able to breathe better.

Prevention is the Best Treatment

Dog’s can be protected against kennel cough by getting them vaccinated for canine adenovirus, distemper, parainfluenza and Boredetella. There is also a vaccination that is squirted into a dog’s nostrils. The second one acts more quickly, gives immunity in three or four days, needs only one dose and can be used in dogs as young as three weeks of age. After the first puppy shots, dogs should get an annual vaccination against kennel cough.

Conclusion for Kennel Cough: A Dog’s Version of the Common Cold

All in all, kennel cough is a very contagious, but not often fatal, disease. Your dog should be vaccinated against it if he will be kenneled.  If you believe your pet has it, and then you should have it confirmed by your veterinarian. In addition, if your dog gets kennel cough, keep him away from other pets until the disease has passed.


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