Does your dog have a persistent, hacking cough that sounds like a goose honk? He may have kennel cough.
Kennel cough is a highly contagious upper respiratory disease that affects dogs.
What causes kennel cough?
Kennel cough is most often caused by the simultaneous infection with mild respiratory virus in combination with a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica, causing inflammation of the upper airways. This leads to irritation of the airways and a dry cough.
How do dogs get it?
Kennel cough is VERY contagious. It can be transmitted by aerosols released when an infected dog coughs and a healthy dog inhales the bacteria and virus particles, by direct contact with an infected dog or by sharing food and water bowls, toys or bedding with an infected dog.
Each dog has an individual susceptibility to kennel cough that is related to the way its immune system functions. Puppies, senior dogs, unvaccinated dogs and dogs with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of contracting kennel cough.
What are the symptoms?
Kennel cough has an incubation period of between 3 to 10 days.
The most common symptom is a persistent, non-productive, forceful cough that sounds like a goose honk. Some dogs with severe coughing will gag or vomit due to the violent coughing. A watery nasal discharge may also be present.
Dogs with mild kennel cough will usually not lose their appetite or have a decreased energy level.
In more severe cases the symptoms may progress to include lethargy, fever, inappetence and even pneumonia. The majority of severe cases occur in dogs with compromised immune systems, or young unvaccinated puppies.
How is kennel cough diagnosed and treated?
There is no specific test for kennel cough, thus diagnosis is based on the symptoms and a history of exposure to other dogs. The vet will examine the dog to exclude other possible causes of the coughing, such as heart disease, a collapsed trachea, etc.
Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms.
Mild self-limiting kennel cough is the most common form and is usually treated with anti-inflammatories to help relieve a sore throat and reduce inflammation. Your vet may also prescribe some antibiotics if necessary. Usually resolves within 7 to 14 days.
In more severe cases hospitalisation may be required as a more aggressive approach to treatment needs to be taken. Isolation may be necessary to protect other patients.
To help prevent the spread of the disease it is advised to keep the infected dog separated from other dogs.
Because exercise, play and pressure on the throat can make the coughing worse it is advised that you let your dog rest for 7 to 14 days or until the coughing stops.
How to protect your dog against kennel cough
Along with your dog’s annual 5-in-1 vaccination, you can have him vaccinated against kennel cough.
There are 2 types of kennel cough vaccines available in South Africa; an injectable vaccine and an intra-nasal vaccine. These vaccines help to strengthen your dog’s immune system against the disease and must be given annually.
It is important to remember that the vaccines will not help to treat your dog if he already has kennel cough.
If your dog goes to the kennels, regularly goes to the doggy parlour, attends group training or activities or frequently comes into contact with other dogs it is very important to have him vaccinated against kennel cough.