Rescuing my dog Henry from a shelter was the best decision I ever made. As soon as I brought him home, I made an appointment with the vet to get him checked out and vaccinated. Why so soon? Because I know most doggy diseases primarily affect dogs that are young (he was only three months old when I adopted him) and dogs that are in tight quarters, like shelters.
Thankfully, kennel cough – a condition that affects the upper respiratory system and causes inflammation to the windpipe – is one disease in particular that my vet was able to rule out. It’s a form of bronchitis and is similar to the common cold that affects humans in terms of symptoms and infect ability.
Kennel cough is also similar to human colds in that it can have various causes. Dr. Denise Petryk, DVM and in-house veterinarian for Trupanion, says while kennel cough can be caused by viruses like canine parainfluenza virus or canine coronavirus, it’s most commonly caused by bacteria called Bordatella bronchiseptica. Kennel cough is an airborne disease that can be spread through coughing or sneezing, especially in tight spaces like kennels (hence its name), groomers, doggy day cares, or vet offices. It can also be contracted directly through contaminated bowls, toys, or blankets.
Kennel cough symptoms
If your dog has a dry, harsh cough – almost like a "honking" sound – he may have kennel cough. Other kennel cough symptoms include sneezing, nasal discharge, vomiting, gagging, fever, and loss of appetite.
Although kennel cough primarily affects puppies due to their developing immune systems or older dogs due to their weak immune systems, it can be contracted by any dog regardless of age, breed, or size.
Contact your vet if your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms. If left untreated, kennel cough can lead to pneumonia or even death. And even if it’s not kennel cough, symptoms like vomiting, fever, and loss of appetite are other doggy disease signifiers so getting him to a doctor as quickly as possible can help get to the root of his sickness.
Kennel cough treatment
Fortunately, kennel cough – like the common cold – generally resolves itself without any treatment. However, many vets will prescribe cough suppressants to ease the symptoms or antibiotics to treat the pain if it’s bacterial. Dr. Petryk says it usually takes three weeks for the conditions to clear, but depending on the age of the dog and severity of the disease, it can take up to six weeks.
To expedite her healing process after she’s left the vet
- Keep her away from other dogs because kennel cough is contagious
- Buy a humidifier or vaporizer for the home to help clear her airways
- Replace her collar with a harness to restrict pressure on her throat and windpipe
- Keep her away from cigarette smoke and anything harsh on her lungs and respiratory system
- Provide plenty of supportive care and TLC – give her plenty of rest, water, food, and food
- Take her back to the vet if her health doesn’t improve after a few weeks to check for pneumonia
Kennel cough prevention
The best way to prevent your dog from contracting kennel cough is by keeping him away from places like kennels, daycares, and groomers and avoiding sick, unfamiliar dogs and items that may be contaminated. However, isolation is not always possible (nor fun!) so you can also get him vaccinated.
Dr. Petryk says dogs can be vaccinated at six to eight weeks old and then again every six to twelve months. While the vaccine doesn’t necessarily stop your dog from catching kennel cough, it does help keep the disease less aggressive. Vaccinations can be given orally, nasally, or by injection.
Fortunately, most kennels and day cares require vaccinations so if you do have to board him, make sure it’s at a safe, clean place that permits healthy, vaccinated dogs only.
If your pup is exhibiting any kennel cough symptoms or odd behavior, contact your vet immediately. The quicker you get her treated, the quicker she’ll feel better. And if she isn’t vaccinated, talk to your doctor about getting her vaccinated, especially if she’s around other dogs a lot. The best thing you can do for your dog is make healthy choices for her and provide preventative care whenever you can. If you do, you’re sure to have a long, happy life with your dog.