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Kennel cough in dogs is a highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs. But what causes kennel cough (also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis), and how can you prevent your dog from getting it? Learn more about kennel cough in dogs to help keep your pet healthy.
How Does Kennel Cough in Dogs Spread?
Dogs commonly contract kennel cough at places where large numbers of animals congregate, like boarding kennels, daycare facilities, dog parks, dog training groups, and dog shows. Dogs can spread kennel cough to one another through airborne droplets, direct contact (like touching noses), or contaminated surfaces (including water or food bowls).
Kennel cough is highly treatable in most healthy adult dogs, but it can be more severe in puppies younger than 6 months old or in immunocompromised dogs.
What Are the Symptoms of Kennel Cough?
If your dog has kennel cough, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Strong cough, often with a “honking” sound (the most obvious symptom)
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Low fever
Although kennel cough is easily treatable in healthy dogs, Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM, a columnist for AKC Family Dog, explains that it’s important to report any coughing symptom to your veterinarian because it could be a sign of a more serious disease.
“The canine distemper virus and canine influenza virus both start off with symptoms nearly identical to kennel cough,” Dr. Fitzgerald says. Other conditions that can cause coughing in dogs include a collapsing trachea, bronchitis, asthma, and even heart disease.
How Is Kennel Cough in Dogs Treated?
Typically, mild cases of kennel cough are treated with a week or so of rest. But your dog’s veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection, as well as cough suppressant medication to ease the symptoms and help your dog (and you) sleep.
“Nebulizers and vaporizers utilizing inhaled antibiotics or bronchodilators have been reported to be beneficial but are usually not prescribed,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. Speak to your veterinarian for treatment recommendations.
Also, it’s helpful for owners to use a harness rather than a collar to walk a dog with kennel cough. Irritation of the tracheal area can aggravate the cough and possibly even cause damage. If you have a household with multiple pets and one shows signs of a cough, chances are all dogs in the home have been exposed. If your dog normally visits a dog daycare while you’re at work, you’ll need to keep them home to help limit the spread to other dogs.
Can Kennel Cough in Dogs Be Prevented?
A vaccine for kennel cough is available to inoculate dogs against the bacterium bordetella, which is the most common agent to cause kennel cough. Dogs who are frequently boarded, visit dog daycare, compete in canine sports, or otherwise are exposed to groups of dogs may benefit from the vaccine.
Many training, boarding, and daycare facilities require proof of vaccination. The vaccine is available in oral, intranasal, and injectable forms, and depending on the form, it is usually given in two doses two to four weeks apart, followed by a booster every six months to a year.
Although most cases of kennel cough are caused by bordetella, some are caused by other agents, including the bacteria bordetella bronchiseptica, canine adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus, canine respiratory coronavirus, and mycoplasma. So the vaccine on its own may not prevent your dog from catching kennel cough.
If you notice your pet coughing, or if you plan to introduce your dog to a group of new dogs, speak with your veterinarian to see if the kennel cough vaccination makes sense for your dog.