Kennel Cough Symptoms, Transmission, and Treatment

Understanding the early signs of kennel cough symptoms can save you and your dog a lot of hassle and worry. If you have heard of kennel cough before, then you likely already know that it is a condition that your dog can acquire while boarding with other (infected) dogs. Kennel cough is also known as Bordetella and tracheobronchitis.

Kennel cough is a very serious worry for someone who has to board their dog in a kennel where they could come into contact with this highly contagious condition. Dogs that tend to be at the highest risk of encountering kennel cough are those that wind up in animal shelters. Because most of these animals are picked up off of the streets or acquired with very little background information, there is no telling which dogs have bordetella until they show the tell-tale kennel cough symptoms—and by this point they have probably already infected countless other dogs. Other possible ways that a dog could acquire kennel cough is by staying in a boarding facility or even visiting the veterinarian’s office. –Any place where a dog could interact with another infected canine heightens their risk of contracting kennel cough.

Kennel Cough Symptoms

The majority of kennel cough symptoms are fairly standard, generally speaking. A dog that has an active kennel cough is likely to show a number of flu-like symptoms, including having a runny nose, discharge or crustiness around the eyes, lack of energy, fever, and the inability or unwillingness to eat. The tell tale sign and dominant of all kennel cough symptoms is by far the coughing that accompanies this infection. Although it may start off fairly mild the cough soon progresses into an uncontrollable hacking. The force with which the dog coughs is enough to trigger gagging and vomiting, which are other commonly reported kennel cough symptoms.

The hacking cough that occurs with kennel cough can sound pretty worrisome, especially to a pet owner that has never encountered this condition before. But in reality the cough tends to sound worse than it really is. The cough can last for a few weeks but if it seems to persist for a longer period of time or if the cough is so severe that the dog cannot eat and vomits frequently, then he or she probably needs to be seen by a veterinarian.

The symptoms of bordetella may linger or become more pronounced, especially fever, lethargy, and eye or nose discharge, if a secondary infection has occurred. In most cases the secondary infection is pneumonia and it is necessary for the dog to receive proper medical attention in order to safely treat bordetella and pneumonia.

What Causes Kennel Cough Symptoms?

Bordetella is an airborne illness. The hacking symptom that is so characteristic of kennel cough is caused by an infection in the respiratory tract which may be either viral or bacterial. The bacterial strain is likely to keep symptoms hanging around for a longer amount of time—sometimes as long as three weeks. A dog that is recovering from bacterial kennel cough is still contagious for up to two weeks after its symptoms go away, which is another contributing factor as to why this condition is not always easy to spot in kennel and boarding situations.

The viral strain tends to produce less severe symptoms and the coughing or hacking is mild in comparison to the bacterial strain. There is a vaccine for viral kennel cough and it is a standard vaccine in most states in the USA. By keeping your dog up to date on his/her booster shots each year you can really cut down on their chances of contracting bordetella. Bear in mind that this vaccine does not protect our furry friends from contracting the bacterial strains of this infection.

Treating Kennel Cough

The method of treatment used for bordetella really depends on what type of infection the dog has. For viral infections, there isn’t anything that can be done to get rid of the virus itself—unfortunately it must simply run its course. There are ways that the dog can be made more comfortable, however, such as by administering cough medicine (going by the dosage per body weight on the medicine), allowing the dog to rest near a humidifier, and keeping the dog’s physical activity to a minimum, as running can aggravate the cough.

For bacterial bordetella, the usual treatment is a round of antibiotics to eradicate the bacteria in the dog’s body. Unfortunately this will also remove the “good” bacteria from the dog’s system, which can be replenished by a good quality pro-biotic.

Preventing Kennel Cough

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the same holds true with kennel cough. Taking steps to prevent your dog from contracting the infection in the first place is always going to save you and your dog a great deal of stress. You can help prevent your dog from getting bordetella by keeping him or her up to date on their vaccinations. If you have to leave your dog, attempt to have a friend or family member dog-sit to avoid having your pooch come into contact with other dogs that may be carrying a bordetella infection without showing any symptoms.
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