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Kennel Cough in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Have you noticed that your dog has a dry, non-productive cough? If so, your pooch may be experiencing kennel cough. Here, our Westminster vets share some facts about this highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs and what to do if your dog is coughing. 

What is kennel cough in dogs?

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, also referred to as kennel cough, is a respiratory disease commonly diagnosed in dogs. Kennel cough is often caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria and canine parainfluenza virus.

Both of these attack the lining of the dog's respiratory tract and lead to irritation and inflammation of a pup's upper airway. While most dogs who are otherwise healthy won't face complications from this condition, it can lead to more severe secondary infections in young puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with a weakened immune system. 

Kennel cough is aptly named, for it's highly contagious and spreads rapidly in places where pets are close to one another, such as dog parks, kennels and multi-dog homes. Kennel cough is spread when dogs come into contact with the droplets released through an infected dog's cough. This may be due to direct contact with the infected dog or through contact with objects that the infected droplets have landed on, such as blankets, cages or crates, bowls or dog toys. 

Kennel Cough Symptoms in Dogs

One of the most noticeable signs of kennel cough in dogs is a non-productive, persistent dry cough that some compare to a goose honk, or like your pooch as something stuck in their throat. Other signs of kennel cough in dogs can include a runny nose, lack of energy, mild fever and decreased appetite. 

If you are seeing symptoms of kennel cough in your dog, isolate your pet from other dogs and contact your vet right away for guidance. 

Because this condition is incredibly contagious, your vet may recommend just isolating your pet from other dogs and allowing them to rest for a few days if your pup is otherwise healthy and only showing mild symptoms while you monitor their condition. 

That said, if your pooch's symptoms are more severe your vet may recommend bringing your pet in for an examination. 

How Kennel Cough is Diagnosed

Diagnosing kennel cough is essentially a process of elimination. Several more serious conditions share the symptoms of kennel cough. As such, your vet will examine your pet for signs of 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.

How to Treat 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. 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.

Protecting Your Dog Against Kennel Cough

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% because kennel cough can be caused by several different 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 people or pets. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment.

Is your dog displaying symptoms of kennel cough? Contact us today to book an appointment for your pet. Our Wachusett Animal Hospital vets provide treatment and preventive care for pets in the Westminster area.

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