Is there a goose, loose in your house? No, that’s just the familiar honk of kennel cough.
You may be familiar with the sound of a dog coughing. The odd one now and then can be comical right? At times quite adorable and often unassuming. But with kennel cough, there’ll be no second guessing. Your pup will make sure you know all about it…
Hacking, raucous and even ear piercing is a good description of what your poorly pups cough will sound like in this instance. Sometimes, the pooch in question will even sound as though they are gagging or retching, and can encounter spasms of coughing after bouts of exercise.
Of course, as their owner and parent, it can be worrisome.
So, what exactly is it?
Kennel cough is the aptly named term given to dogs suffering with contagious respiratory disease or infectious bronchitis. Also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, it’s much like a chest infection in us human counterparts, often involving a number of infectious organisms
Why the name? The infection itself is highly contagious and as it’s also airborne, is commonly associated with places where dogs are exposed their pooch pals, such as shelter, grooming places, pet shops, dog shows and yep, you’ve guessed it, kennels.
It can also take place in open spaces. That unsuspecting greeting in the park? Talk about the kiss of contagion.
Not only this, but it’s transferable through various shared doggy items, such as food and drinking bowls, toys and so if you do suspect kennel cough in your canine, it’s best to keep these objects isolated.
Certain factors can also weaken the protective mucus coating the trachea, such as cold temperatures, exposure to an excess of dust particles or smoke, and that super obstructive guy, stress.
What are the symptoms?
Aside from the most common hacking and often, forceful sound of the cough itself, your pup may also experience the following symptoms:
- Dry cough
- Runny nose
- Itchy and watery eyes
Signs of a secondary bacterial infection can also include:
- Nasal or eye discharge
- Loss of appetite.
Is it life-threatening?
Most of the time, kennel cough isn’t seen a serious condition but there is a chance the infection could spread deeper into the lungs, and in this case, there is a potential of it leading to pneumonia. This is when it could get life threatening.
In more severe cases such as these, other symptoms can be prevalent, such as coughing up phlegm or mucus, a fever, rapid weight loss and difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these signs, don’t paws. It’s best to take your pup to the vets right away.
How is it diagnosed?
Frustratingly, there isn’t one singular test to be able to confirm kennel cough but it’s safe to say that if the above symptoms are present, and you’re aware of any potential exposure from other infected pooches, kennel cough is likely to be the diagnosis.
Taking your pup to vets is a good first step, as they can take swabs to determine the virus level. They can also diagnose kennel cough based on your dog’s history and clinical signs, along with a physical exam.
There’s a simple test your vet can also carry out, which is to gently place pressure on the trachea. If that honking sound comes out? It’s likely kennel cough. There are various other examinations your vet can carry out, such as taking blood tests and X-rays. If your vet deems it necessary, there are further tests they can do, which could help to identify the exact organisms involved.
Is there any treatment available?
Treatment isn’t a necessity and most affected dogs will recover from kennel cough without treatment within three weeks. Hurrah! However, as is the way with the human form, it could take longer to fully clear up and in some case, this could be up to six weeks.
For treatment of the home variety, make sure your house is well ventilated, particularly those areas where Fido finds his comfort. This will help to aid them in their recovery. It’s also best if they don’t see their pals for at least two weeks, as this will help to prevent further exposure of the infection to them.
It’s important to mind their windpipe, which basically rules out using a collar and lead. Of course, your doggy shouldn’t be missing his daily walkies, so try using a harness for these instead of anything that could pull on his neck and aggregate the trachea.
If your vet decides that the best type of medicine is that of the literal variety, such as antibiotics, make sure these are prescribed as by your vet. In some cases, antibiotics will be given to kill the Bordetella bacteria, which is the most common one present in kennel cough
It’s rare for kennel cough to spread to humans, but it’s not unheard of. Anyone with a weak immune system, whether this be due to an autoimmune disorder, receiving treatment for cancer or due to age – the very young or elderly, may be at risk for certain bacterial agents.
How can it be avoided?
There is not exact way to prevent kennel cough but there are some steps you can take to help in its prevention. After all, it’s always better than cure, right?
Where possible, try to keep your pup away from the main areas where they might be at risk for exposure. Of course, it’s not realistic to avoid every single place, like parks and your own street but if it’s possible, try to minimise their time spent in boarding facilities like kennels. It’s called the kennel cough for a reason, after all.
Make hygiene a priority! Wash your hands and change your clothes before seeing another dog to reduce risk of transmission.
It helps to make sure Fido is up to date with his vaccinations but there is also a specific CIV vaccine available from your vet. It’s known to have some controversy around it however, so make sure you do your research before going down this route, so that you know all the potential risk factors.
It’s always a wise move to make sure you’re providing your pal with good nutrition, plenty of exercise and supplements, to give them the best possible defence against any type of disease.