My brief stint in the doggie daycare biz made me super aware of the importance of canine vaccinations, especially with roughly 20 dogs in the room at any given time. Dogs sneeze, cough, and make weird noises. Most of the time it’s a nothing burger. So, a cough or two doesn’t mean anything. Right? Well, it could be kennel cough; and that can infect every dog in the room. In most boarding facilities (I sincerely hope) the kennel cough vaccine is required. No vaccine? No stay. That’s just the way it is, and it’s done for a good reason.
Kennel cough is something that many pet parents mistake ordinary coughing or hacking for kennel cough. What is kennel cough? Ask yourself these 7 questions:
1. What IS kennel cough?
Kennel cough is an infection brought about by either a virus or bacteria that causes the windpipe and voice box to become inflamed. Like bronchitis, it’s like a really, really bad chest cold in humans. Transmission of kennel cough is all too common in animal shelters and boarding and kenneling facilities and is very easily “caught” by other dogs. Even visiting the vet or the groomers, sharing the water fountain, or visiting a dog park can do the trick.
Therefore, it’s important to vaccinate if you ever want your dog to be around other dogs.
2. Who is at risk?
Just like in humans, young puppies, older dogs, and dogs with compromised immune systems are more likely to contract kennel cough. Unfortunately, it is more apt among these groups to progress into full-blown pneumonia. The average adult dog can also pick up the cough too. In short, any dog can get it.
3. How can my dog get kennel cough?
Bordatella bronchiseptica is the bacteria that transmits the infection. It’s spread by way of viruses like canine parainfluenza (also a highly-contagious respiratory virus), and adenovirus type 2, which is related to canine infectious hepatitis.
How is it transmitted? It’s spread through the air (think of the flu in humans), so one cough can make many dogs sick. Fast. Poor circulation in enclosed buildings is also a major culprit. And if your dog touches an object or surface that has the bacteria, he or she will get it.
According to PetPlan, kennel cough increases by 44% during the summer months. If you’re planning on a trip, before you drop off your pooch, make sure all of their booster shots, including kennel cough, have been updated.
4. How do I know if it’s really kennel cough?
The characteristic “goose honk” is the best (and easiest) way to identify kennel cough. Most dogs will still eat, play and behave as normal….with the exception of the “honking. “ Some dogs may gag or retch, or even spit up a white foamy substance after the dry, hacking cough. The coughing, gagging or retching may be worse after exercise (especially if they’ve pulled against their collar) or when they get excited. In severe cases, the cough may be accompanied by a fever and/or nasal discharge.
5. How is it treated?
If you think your dog’s got it, head on over to your vet for a checkup. Most mild cases don’t require medication. It goes away on its own. Serious cases—when dogs have issues with eating, sleeping or playing—may require hospitalization and nebulization of fluids.
If your dog’s doc sends him home with no antibiotics to let the infection run its course, the ASPCA suggests a few things you can do to make your pup feel a bit better:
a. Consider running a humidifier to make the air less dry or let your dog join you in the bathroom during a shower. The warm, moist air will provide some relief for their irritated airways.
- b. If it wasn’t already NOT okay, don’t smoke anywhere near your dog. The harmful fumes won’t help anything.
- c. Ask your vet about a cough suppressant–he or she may be able to prescribe you one or advise the correct dosage of over-the-counter Robitussin, which is identical to the drugs vets use in-office.
- d. Swap out your dog’s collar for a harness to eliminate stress on the windpipe if they pull on a leash.
- e. Be observant and supportive: monitor your pal’s eating and drinking habits, and try to keep your home as stress-free as possible.
6. How long does kennel cough last?
Mild symptoms normally last no longer than 6 days, according to Pet Education, unless the Bordatella bacteria is involved, which is typically the case. Symptoms can occur at least one week after exposure, and “if uncomplicated with other agents” will last around 14-20 days.
Even after the symptoms disappear, your dog is still contagious up to 14 weeks after he/she’s better.
7. How can I prevent my dog from getting kennel cough?
Get your dog vaccinated! The vaccine can be administered as an injection or an intranasal spray, and your vet will usually offer one or the other. Both are effective, though neither is a 100% preventative measure. The only way to completely avoid the bacteria is to stay away from other dogs, and that’s no good, now is it?
8. How can I prevent my dog from getting kennel cough?
For one, get him vaccinated! The vaccine can be administered as an injection or an intranasal spray, and your vet will usually offer one or the other. Both are effective, though neither is a 100% preventative measure. The only way to completely avoid the bacteria is to stay away from other dogs, and that’s no good, now is it?
If you plan on boarding your dog at a daycare or kennel, ask for a tour to check out the cleanliness of the area where your dog will be staying. Ask what they use to clean the kennels. Find out if they disinfect the place, how often they do it, and if the products are pet-friendly. Check out their ventilation system. Are they recycling air, or is fresh air coming in 24/7. Find out what vaccines they require before boarding pets. If the place doesn’t request kennel cough vaccinations, chances are, your dog will come home with it as a souvenir.