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Comprehensive Guide to Kennel Cough in Dogs

Is your dog making funny coughing noises that sound like a goose honk? If so, they might have kennel cough. Read on to learn more about this highly contagious respiratory condition and what to do if your dog is coughing.

What is kennel cough in dogs?

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, better known as kennel cough, is a respiratory disease that is commonly seen in dogs. Kennel cough is often caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria and canine parainfluenza virus which attack the lining of the dog's respiratory tract and lead to inflammation and irritation of the pup's upper airway. While this condition isn't serious for most otherwise healthy dogs, it can lead to more serious secondary infections in young puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with a weakened immune system.

The name kennel cough comes from the highly contagious nature of this condition, which causes it to spread rapidly in places where pets are in close contact with each other such as kennels, dog parks, and multi-dog homes. Kennel cough is spread when dogs come in contact with the droplets released through the cough of an infected dog. This can be through direct contact with the infected dog or through contact with objects that the infected droplets have landed on such as dog toys, bowls, cages or blankets.

What are the signs of kennel cough in dogs?

The primary symptom of kennel cough is a non-productive persistent dry cough that can sound somewhat like a goose honk or as if your pup has something stuck in their throat. Other symptoms of kennel cough in dogs can include runny nose, sneezing, lack of energy, decreased appetite and mild fever.

If your dog is showing signs of kennel cough keep your pet away from other dogs and contact your vet right away for advice.

Due to the incredibly contagious nature of the condition, if your dog is otherwise healthy, and showing mild symptoms, your vet may recommend simply isolating your pet from other dogs and allowing your pup to rest for a few days as you monitor their symptoms. 

On the other hand, if your pup's symptoms are more severe your vet may recommend bringing your pet in for an examination.

How is kennel cough diagnosed?

Diagnosing kennel cough is essentially a process of elimination. Several serious conditions share the symptoms of kennel cough, as such your vet will examine your pet for signs of a collapsing trachea, heartworm disease, bronchitis, asthma, cancer, heart disease and more. Coughing can also be a sign of canine distemper virus or canine influenza virus.

Based on the results of your pet's examination and medical history your vet will determine whether kennel cough is the likely cause of your pup's symptoms.

What is the treatment for kennel cough in dogs?

In otherwise healthy adult dogs kennel cough can be easy to treat. Your vet may decide that no medications are required and that the best treatment for your dog is rest while the infection runs its course (much like the human cold). 

If your dog is experiencing more severe symptoms your vet may prescribe antibiotics to help prevent secondary infections or cough suppressants to provide your pup with some relief from the persistent coughing.

While your pet is recovering it is a good idea to avoid using neck collars and switch to a body harness when taking your dog for walks. You may also want to use a humidifier in rooms where your dog spends time, as this can help to relieve your dog's symptoms.

Most dogs recover from kennel cough within a week or two. If your pup's symptoms persist for longer a follow-up veterinary appointment is essential. In some cases, kennel cough can lead to pneumonia.

Kennel Cough Prevention

If your dog regularly spends time with other dogs ask your vet about vaccinating your pet against kennel cough. While this vaccine may help to prevent kennel cough it is not 100% fail-safe since kennel cough can be caused by a wide variety of pathogens.

Three forms of the vaccine are available injection, nasal mist, and oral medication. If the kennel cough vaccine is recommended for your pet, your veterinarian will choose the most appropriate form.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Do you think that your dog might have kennel cough? Contact our Greensboro vets to book an examination for your four-legged friend.

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