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What Is Kennel Cough in Dogs? Symptoms, Treatment, & Prevention

Does your dog have a dry, hacking cough? If so, your furry friend might have kennel cough. Today, our veterinarians at Denver will discuss kennel cough in dogs, including how to diagnose and treat it.

Canine Kennel Cough

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, known as kennel cough or bordetella, is a respiratory disease commonly affecting dogs. The condition is usually caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria and canine parainfluenza virus, which attack the respiratory tract lining. This leads to inflammation and irritation of the dog's upper airway. Although kennel cough is usually not a serious condition for most healthy dogs, it can result in more severe secondary infections in puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with a weakened immune system.

The reason why it's called kennel cough is because it's highly contagious. Anywhere that dogs are in close proximity to each other, such as kennels, dog parks, or multi-dog households, can cause the disease to spread rapidly. Kennel cough is transmitted from dog to dog through contact with infected droplets in the air. This can occur through direct contact with an infected dog or through contact with objects that have been contaminated with the infected droplets, such as toys, bowls, cages, or blankets.

Signs of Kennel Cough in Dogs

Kennel cough is a contagious disease that can affect dogs. Its main characteristic is a persistent dry cough, similar to a goose honk or as if something is stuck in the dog's throat. Other symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, lack of energy, decreased appetite, and mild fever. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, keep them away from other pets and seek advice from your vet as soon as possible.

If your dog only shows mild symptoms and is in good health otherwise, your vet may recommend isolating them from other pets to prevent the disease from spreading. Generally, rest and TLC will help your pet recover from kennel cough, but your vet may suggest an examination if the symptoms are severe. Remember, early intervention is key to ensuring your dog's speedy recovery.

Diagnosing Kennel Cough

When it comes to diagnosing kennel cough, the process involves eliminating other conditions that have similar symptoms. Your veterinarian will examine your pet for signs of more serious illnesses that could be causing the cough, such as heart disease, asthma, cancer, bronchitis, and heartworm disease. It's important to note that coughing in dogs may also be a symptom of canine influenza virus or canine distemper 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 pet's symptoms.

Treatment for Kennel Cough in Dogs

Otherwise, healthy adult dogs typically respond well to treatment for kennel cough. In some cases, your vet may determine that no medication is needed and that the best cure is rest to allow your dog to recover from the infection, much like a human cold. 

If your dog is experiencing more severe symptoms, the vet may prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infections or cough suppressants to alleviate your dog's persistent cough. 

To aid in your dog's recovery, it's recommended that you switch from a neck collar to a body harness when taking your dog for walks. Using a humidifier in rooms where your dog spends time can also help relieve their dry cough. 

Most dogs recover from kennel cough within a week or two. However, a follow-up veterinary appointment is essential if your dog's symptoms persist for longer. Sometimes, kennel cough can lead to more severe conditions such as pneumonia.

Protecting Your Dog From Kennel Cough

If your dog is a social and friendly animal that spends a lot of time with other dogs, it is best to ask your veterinarian about vaccinations that can protect your pup against kennel cough. While this vaccine can help reduce the transmission of kennel cough, it does not provide 100% prevention since several different pathogens can cause kennel cough.

Three forms of the vaccine are available: injection, nasal mist, and oral medication. If your veterinarian suggests a kennel cough vaccine, they will choose the most suitable form of the vaccine for your dog.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog showing signs of kennel cough? Contact our Denver vets to book an appointment for your pup.

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