Canine respiratory infections are extremely taxing on dogs, especially the highly-contagious strain known as kennel cough. The coughing is highly projective, as obviously dogs cannot cover their mouths, so the infection spreads quickly, especially in close quarters. A cough stays airborne and lingers for a long time, so you could potentially enter a room that doesn’t have any dogs coughing and your dog can still catch the virus that was left behind.
The inflammation that comes from kennel cough creates a bigger issue with making the dog vulnerable to secondary infections and other serious illnesses. It is especially prevalent in the dry, hot summers, but can spread at any time in the year. The disease spreads easily through contamination and improper sanitary protocols, but just being in close proximity can quickly spread the infection.
Common Symptoms of Kennel Cough
A cough itself is not like your typical cold or hairball hack. It’s a cross between a gag and a suffocating cough as if something is obstructing their lungs. Kennel cough is also much louder than a normal cough, sometimes with a honking noise. It doesn’t present itself until about a week after contracting the virus. Unlike your standard cold or flu, kennel cough doesn’t reduce your dog’s appetite, but inflammation can make it difficult to eat.
Seeing the Vet
You shouldn’t wait until a cough has gotten to the point where your dog is displaying obvious signs of pain, or try to treat kennel cough yourself until a vet has confirmed a diagnosis. A veterinarian will look at your dog and determine whether their cough might be mistaken for another illness or if they might be affected by heart disease, heartworms, cancer, fungal infection, or damage to the trachea. Of course, if you just adopted your dog from a pet shelter, store, or dog breeder, you’ll want to take them immediately to the vet, rather than take a risk of them passing kennel cough on to other pets.
Depending on the stage that your dog is at, how severe the cough is, it may not be necessary for them to prescribe any medication, and instead suggest palliative care. You can use humidifiers to lessen the irritation and rawness of the throat. Cough suppressants and antibiotics may also be needed to prevent secondary infections.
If your dog has a blocked nasal cavity, it’s important to keep that pathway open, so that they aren’t laboring to breath, which may further irritate his throat. Blocked nasal cavities also lead to other viral or bacterial infections.
Kennel cough has vaccinations available for the most extreme cases, which can be delivered through a shot, a nasal spray, and even pill form. Nothing is guaranteed, but it does provide a layer of protection if your dog is constantly around other dogs that you aren’t familiar with. Vaccinations also lessen the impact of symptoms and the length of time that they will be sick. Vaccination is definitely worth considering, especially if your dog has a vulnerable immune system like the elderly or young, or those who already have compromised immune systems.
Kennel cough is a serious matter that requires a prompt prevention plan as well as a prompt plan of action should symptoms become apparent. This is increasingly true if your dog spends time in the company of other dogs. Kennel environments or other spaces that require your dog to spend time in close quarters with other animals are at high risks. You should carefully consider the risks before placing your pup in an area where they may contract kennel cough or other contagious canine diseases.
Another important thing to know is that some dogs are simply carriers of kennel cough. They do not show any symptoms of an infection, but they carry the disease and can spread kennel cough to other dogs without anyone being aware. A quick trip to the vet, pet boutique, or quick hello with the neighbor dog can become a dangerous encounter, too.
Regular checkups, keeping your dog’s immune system healthy, and limiting exposure to infected or carrying dogs are all measures that may help reduce your dog’s risk. To learn more about kennel cough and a few other common doggie diseases, check out ASPCA’s fact sheet. And as always, ask your vet if you have questions about your pup’s symptoms.
Tailored Pet Services helps limit your dog’s exposure to kennel cough by only walking your dogs separately during each visit, and offering overnight visits for those who don’t want to board their dogs. See our rates for more information.