Kennel cough is a highly infectious respiratory disease that affects dogs. It’s called “kennel cough” because it’s so contagious…one dog at a kennel with infectious tracheobronchitis can get every other dog at the kennel sick. It’s commonly found and transmitted in places dogs congregate like boarding facilities, at the groomer, doggy daycare, and even the dog park.
Who Gets Kennel Cough?
Kennel cough can affect almost any dog. Since it’s transmitted through both airborne droplets and/or physical contact, dogs of any age can catch it. It’s most serious in dogs who are very young (less than six months old) and in senior dogs, as well as in dogs who are immunocompromised.
Signs of Kennel Cough
Kennel cough isn’t an aggressive disease in that dogs who have it don’t immediately become violently ill. It gradually gets worse, and its effects can build slowly over a period of several days or weeks before any symptoms become noticeable.
How can you tell that your dog has kennel cough? A few of the most noticeable symptoms include:
- A strong, loud cough, sometimes described as a “honking” sound
- Typical viral symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, or red eyes
- Lethargy or a general lack of energy
- Loss of appetite or thirst
- Low-grade fever
Treating Kennel Cough
If your dog has any coughing symptoms, it’s important to speak to a veterinarian to rule out serious conditions like canine influenza or distemper. If your dog has kennel cough, your vet will likely diagnose him based solely on a visual and auditory assessment in-person.
Treatment is usually relatively mild and based on rest. Most vets recommend keeping your dog’s activity level low for at least a week or two while he regains his strength. Pet owners might be advised to switch to a harness rather than a collar while their dog’s trachea recovers from damage caused by the disease to make walks more comfortable.
In the most serious cases, vets may recommend nebulizers or vaporizers to help improve a dog’s oxygen levels and even to administer medication. Antibiotics may be prescribed in order to prevent a secondary infection from forming.
Preventing Kennel Cough in Dogs
Since kennel cough is transmitted through contact, one way to prevent your dog from contracting it is to limit her exposure to other, possibly-infected dogs. That solution isn’t always viable, however, if you regularly take your dog to a boarding facility, to a groomer, or to a park where dogs are allowed.
Vaccinating your dog against Bordetella is the absolute best way to keep him from becoming infected; Bordetella is the most common cause of kennel cough. There are, however, a number of other infection agents responsible for transmitting kennel cough which is why it’s important to monitor your dog for any unusual changes in behavior.
Questions about kennel cough? Talk to your veterinarian!