Dogs, like humans and all other animals, are susceptible to a certain number of communicable diseases. One of these diseases is kennel cough, an illness that causes cold-like symptoms such as coughing, a runny nose, and a low fever. Kennel cough is spread from dog to dog, often in facilities such as boarding kennels. So, if you are planning on putting your dog into the kennel any time soon, you should know the basics about kennel cough.
What causes kennel cough?
Kennel cough is caused by a bacteria known as Bordatella. The bacteria are introduced to the environment when an infected dog coughs or sneezes. Your dog may inhale the droplets containing the bacteria or pick the bacteria up when they lick a surface that has been coughed or sneezed on. The closer your dog is to an infected dog, the more easily the disease will spread. So walking past another dog on the sidewalk is not very risky, but letting your dog play with another dog can be risky.
What are the symptoms of kennel cough?
The most notable symptom of kennel cough is a cough, which tends to have a shrill quality to it. Your dog may then develop nasal discharge and become a bit lethargic. Some dogs lose their appetite for a few days, while others seem to behave pretty normally except for the cough. Kennel cough usually clears up within a week or two, especially with antibiotic treatment, but it can linger longer in old and young dogs. It can be more dangerous for young puppies whose immune systems are not as developed. Dogs under 6 months of age sometimes require hospitalization when infected with kennel cough.
How can you protect your dog from kennel cough?
The best way to keep your dog from getting sick is to have him or her vaccinated against kennel cough. The Bordatella vaccine is readily available, but vets do not always administer it unless you ask. Seek the vaccine a few weeks before you plan on boarding your dog. This will give him or her a few weeks to develop immunity to kennel cough after the vaccination has been given.
In addition to getting your own dog vaccinated, make sure that the boarding facility you choose requires all dogs to be vaccinated. No vaccine is 100% effective, so if all of the dogs in the facility are vaccinated, your own dog's risk of getting the illness is lower. Until your dog has been vaccinated, keep him or her away from other dogs and the dog park and at friends' houses unless you know those dogs have been vaccinated for kennel cough.
What should you do if your dog shows signs of kennel cough?
If your dog starts coughing, especially after a trip to the kennel, contact a veterinarian. This is probably not an emergency situation, but you should have the vet look over your dog and see how he or she is doing. Other conditions, like canine distemper, can cause symptoms similar to kennel cough, so it's important to rule them out. Your vet may do a nasal swab test to see if your dog is infected with Bordatella. If so, your vet may prescribe antibiotics to help your dog fight the infection faster.
You can also keep your dog feeling better by giving him or her plenty of fluids, like chicken broth, and by limiting his or her physical activity. Keep your dog away from other dogs until the kennel cough symptoms have cleared.
To learn more about kennel cough, talk to a veterinarian in your local area.