Much like you and I, there are a multitude of causes for your dog to cough – but for this Staff Chat, we’re going to focus on what is commonly known as “kennel cough”, or sometimes “bordetella”. While there are other conditions that can cause coughing, kennel cough is typically the most prevalent.
The medical term for kennel cough is canine infectious tracheobronchitis – and when it says infectious, that may be an understatement! This is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is most often contracted at places where large amounts of dogs congregate. Daycare, boarding, dog parks, and training groups are some of the locations most prone to picking up that telltale honking cough associated with kennel cough. In addition to the coughing, other symptoms can include a runny nose, sneezing, and in more severe cases lethargy, loss of appetite, and a low fever.
How is it transmitted? The disease can be spread by the airborne droplets produced when a dog coughs, by shared contaminated water or food bowls, and even just by nose-to-nose contact between dogs as they greet each other.
So – you were on vacation for a week, and your canine companion stayed at a boarding facility. You pick them up on your way home, and the next day they’re coughing. Kennel cough, right? Well – most likely. Other health concerns can cause this symptom also, so it’s best to call us and make an appointment to have your dog seen.
As kennel cough is highly contagious, you’ll be asked to wait in your car for the initial exam. One of our vets will determine if it is kennel cough, or a different health concern. Nonproductive coughing can also be caused by heart disease, heartworms, a collapsing trachea, cancer, or an irritant in the trachea or bronchial tubes – remember how it feels when a piece of food “goes down the wrong way”, or it feels like you have a bit of cracker or popcorn stuck in your throat? It can even be caused by frequent barking while being boarded! Our course of action in getting your dog back to health will revolve around what we find on the exam. If it’s kennel cough, you will most likely get a round of antibiotics for your dog, to help the healing process.
What can you do to help reduce the odds of your furry friend getting infected? You’ll find that most daycares, boarding facilities, and groomers require the Bordetella vaccine – they do because it reduces the risk of one dog infecting many others with kennel cough at their facility. While the vaccine doesn't offer full protection against the many other causes of upper respiratory infection, it is highly effective against the bordetella bronchiseptica strain - which is the one most commonly associated with kennel cough. Canine adenovirus type 2, and canine parainfluenza, can also cause coughing – the distemper vaccine, or DA2PP, protects against those two strains. This vaccine is also required by these types of facilities.
As always, we’re just a phone call or email away if you have questions. Thank you for sharing your furry family with us – we appreciate being your “other family doctor”!
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