Q I TOOK my dog to the vets because he started coughing. The vet said he has kennel cough but he hasn’t been in the kennels. How has he got this and can I prevent this happening again in the future?
A Kennel cough is an infection of the upper respiratory tract of the dog, and can be caused by a variety of different viruses and pathogens.
Kennel cough is highly contagious, and will soon spread through a community of dogs kept in close quarters or that come into contact with each other when out on walks.
Kennel cough in fact got its name by virtue of its prevalence and propensity to spread quickly between dogs housed in boarding kennels and dog shelters. Both viral and bacterial kennel cough is airborne, which is part of the reason why it is so highly contagious.
The coughing and sneezing of affected dogs causes mucus and fluids containing the virus or bacteria to be diffused into the air, where they can be inhaled by other dogs.
As with other types of viral and bacterial infections, the pathogen can sometimes survive outside of the body for long periods of time, meaning that toys, bowls and equipment that has come into contact with an affected dog can all harbour the condition, waiting to be picked up by an unsuspecting passing dog. It is therefore very important to practice good hygiene and keep any dog suspected of having kennel cough isolated from other dogs where possible.
The symptoms of kennel cough can vary but often include sneezing, a dry harsh cough, a sore throat, runny eyes and nose and general lethargy and loss of appetite. Not all dogs show all symptoms.
You can minimize the chances of your dog contracting kennel cough or becoming a carrier for the condition by having them vaccinated against the illness.
All reputable boarding kennels, dog shows, dog training classes and any other events where large groups of dogs will gather will insist that all dogs brought onto their site are vaccinated against the condition before attending.
Most healthy dogs will recover relatively quickly from kennel cough. The treatment often consists of antibiotics to help fight any bacterial infection. Anti-inflammatory drugs may also be necessary to help with the pain and inflammation that may accompany the cough.
We are currently treating several new cases of kennel cough a day so I would advise dog owners to consider getting their dogs vaccinated against kennel cough. Most vaccines used from kennel cough last a year. As mentioned above, it is not just dogs going into kennels that pick up the infection. The cost of the vaccination is much cheaper than a consultation fee and a course of antibiotics!