Is your new puppy or adult dog (that just came back from boarding) hacking away or constantly making noises that make it sound like he’s choking on something? If so, he may have a case of kennel cough.
What is Kennel Cough?
Just as we may catch a cold which is caused by many different viruses, kennel cough itself can have multiple causes.
One of the most common cause is the bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica (which is why we call the virus and vaccine Bordetella). Most dogs that become infected with Bordetella are infected with a virus at the same time.
Dogs “catch” kennel cough when they inhale bacteria or virus particles into their respiratory tract. This tract is normally lined with a coating of mucus that traps infectious particles, but there are a number of factors that can weaken this protection and make dogs prone to kennel cough infection, which results in inflammation of the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe).
These factors include:
Exposure to crowded and/or poorly ventilated conditions, such as those found in many kennels and shelters (or even at the groomers, boarding facilities, doggy-day care & dog parks)
Exposure to dust and/or cigarette smoke (Wow!! Another reason to clean your house & quit smoking)
Symptoms of Kennel Cough
The classic symptom of kennel cough is a persistent, forceful cough. This is distinct from a cough-like sound made by some dogs, especially little ones, which is called a reverse sneeze. Reverse sneezes can be normal in certain dogs and breeds, and usually only indicates the presence of post-nasal drip or a slight irritation of the throat.
Some dogs with kennel cough may show other symptoms of illness, including sneezing, a runny nose, or eye discharge.
If your dog has kennel cough, he may not lose his appetite or have a decreased energy level.
Treating and Preventing Kennel Cough
Kennel cough is contagious. If you think your dog might have kennel cough, you should keep him away from your other dogs and give us a call.
Although some cases of kennel cough will resolve without treatment, medications will speed up the recovery time and/or minimize symptoms during the course of infection. We will prescribe antibiotics which target the Bordetella bacteria and may also recommend cough medicine to help minimize the irritation that causes the cough.
You may also find that keeping your dog in a well-humidified area and using a harness instead of a collar, especially for dogs that strain against a leash, will help minimize coughing.
Most dogs with kennel cough will recover completely within three weeks, although it can take up to six weeks in older dogs or those with other medical conditions. Because serious, ongoing Bordetella infection can lead to pneumonia, be sure to follow up with us if your dog doesn’t improve within the expected amount of time. Also, if your dog at any time has symptoms
of rapid breathing, not eating, or listlessness, contact us right away, as these could be signs of more serious conditions.
The Bordetella Vaccine
There are three forms of vaccine for kennel cough: one that is injected, one that is delivered as a nasal mist, and one that can be given by mouth. Although these vaccines may help, they do not guarantee protection against kennel cough, because it can be caused by so many different kinds of bacteria and viruses. Also, it is important to realize that neither form of the kennel cough vaccination will treat active infections.
We offer the nasal mist in our clinic. This form tends to provide dogs protection against kennel cough sooner than the injected product. The intranasal Bordetella vaccine is typically given to dogs once a year, but may be recommended by groomers or boarding facilities to be given every six months.
Puppies will receive one booster at 8 weeks initially, then a second booster three weeks later which is good for one year.