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Kennel cough

Kennel cough is more formally known as Infectious Tracheo-Bronchitis. Kennel cough is highly contagious and spreads easily through airborne/droplet infection. It should be called ‘dog cough’ as your dog can pick it up anywhere, not just in kennels, for example, the park, the dog in the garden next door, at a dog show, basically anywhere that an infectious dog has been. In places such as boarding kennels or at dog shows it can spread very quickly, which is why most kennels recommend vaccination against kennel cough before they will allow your dog to board. It can take a couple of weeks for kennel cough to incubate in your dog, so sometimes symptoms do not show until a week or two after kennelling.

Symptoms of kennel cough

  • Hacking cough – it often sounds like something is caught down the dog’s throat. A lot of people make an appointment with their vet as they are concerned that their dog has a chicken bone or something else stuck in his/her throat and it is actually kennel cough.
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • High temperature (above 38.2 degreesC)
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced appetite

Causes of kennel cough

It is actually a group of different viruses and bacteria that can cause respiratory disease. The most commonly involved virus is the canine parainfluenza virus and the most commonly involved bacteria is Bordetella bronchiseptica.

What you can do yourself

  • Talk to your vet about vaccination against kennel cough - the vaccine is like the flu jab for humans; it does not offer complete protection but often helps to minimise symptoms if your dog does contract kennel cough. The vaccine is given as drops up the nose. The vaccine contains live attenuated (weakened) virus (like the flu jab) so your dog may have mild symptoms of coughing, sneezing or discharge from the eyes or nose for a few days following the vaccine. If this persists or you are concerned about your dog then contact your vet.
  • If your dog requires the kennel cough vaccine to go into kennels then you need to plan this in plenty of time as your kennels may have a window of time in which they have to be vaccinated. The vaccine manufacturers recommend that if the dog has not had kennel cough vaccine previously, that they have their vaccine at least 3 weeks prior to going into kennels or to a dog show as it can take 3 weeks for immunity to start for the canine parainfluenza virus part of the vaccine.
  • If your dog gets kennel cough then you will need to give them lots of TLC. Make sure that they have plenty of clean, fresh water, and a good quality, nutritious diet. They might require their dry food to be softened with warm water if their throat is sore or offer bland food to tempt them to eat if they have a reduced appetite. Provide a warm, dry place to sleep, away from drafts.
  • If they are coughing then you should keep them away from other dogs as they are highly contagious and other dogs are at high risk of contracting kennel cough too. Try to either keep them restricted to your garden or walk them in areas where other dogs do not visit frequently to avoid spreading the disease.

Treatment of kennel cough

Often supportive treatment and treatment of any secondary issues is all that is required. In some dogs the cough can be hard to get rid of and, similar to a human cold, it often doesn’t respond to antibiotics because it is caused by a virus. Your vet will decide if your dog needs symptomatic treatment.

When to see your physical vet

  • If your dog appears unwell or you are concerned about them then we recommend that you contact your vet.
  • If their coughing continues, they lose their appetite, or have other symptoms then we recommend that you make an appointment with your vet.
  • Your vet may ask you to wait with your dog in the car until they call you in for your appointment, to try and reduce the risk of spreading the infection to other dogs.

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