Kennel Cough, which is also known as Canine Infectious Bronchitis, Infectious Tracheobronchitis and Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD), is a highly contagious upper respiratory tract infection that can affect our pet dogs and is one of the most widespread canine infectious diseases in the UK.
Although it is called Kennel Cough, dogs do not only pick up this infection from boarding kennels or rescue centres, this highly contagious infection spreads quickly among dogs anywhere they are in close contact, which can also include those attending dog clubs, training classes, dog groomers, veterinary surgeries, visiting homes of other dogs and those on regular walks.
Kennel Cough is not just something that happens to dogs that go to boarding kennels
Causes and Transmission Of Kennel Cough
There are several causes of Kennel Cough but the most common are the Bordetella Bronchiseptica bacteria, the Canine Parainfluenza Virus and the Canine Coronavirus. It may also be caused by a Canine Adenovirus and Canine Herpesvirus
Kennel Cough is so highly contagious because of the way it is transmitted. When an infected dog coughs or sneezes, tiny droplets of fluid containing the virus or bacteria are sent into the air, where they can be inhaled by other dogs. As with many types of viral and bacterial infections, the causal agent can sometimes survive outside of the body for long periods of time in the right conditions, which means that objects such as lampposts, benches, bowls, toys and other equipment could also be a potential source of infection to other dogs.
Clinical Signs Of Kennel Cough
Symptoms of kennel cough usually begin 3-10 days after exposure and may include some or all of the following
- Coughing – Dry, Harsh, Hacking and/or Honking (similar to whooping cough!)
- Conjunctivitis – tearing and/or inflammation of the eyes
- Runny Nose (discharge may be clear or thick or sometimes green-coloured)
- Vomiting – usually bringing up froth/phlegm as a result of the coughing
- General Lethargy
- Reduced appetite – they may even stop eating altogether
- High temperature
- In more severe cases dogs may develop secondary infections that can cause more serious problems and complications such as pneumonia.
Diagnosis Of Kennel Cough
While there are lab tests that can be performed to determine whether the cause of Kennel Cough is a viral or bacterial one, these are usually only performed in dogs that are showing more severe clinical symptoms, have other medical complications or are just not getting better after initial treatment.
Your veterinary surgeon will gently examine your dog’s trachea (windpipe) to see if this makes your dog cough, because most dogs with kennel cough will have an irritated or sore trachea, an examination and gentle pressure will produce a cough.
In dogs with more severe symptoms, swabs, blood tests and/or x-rays may be necessary for the vet to diagnose further complications such as pneumonia.
Remember that coughing can signal a number of medical conditions including heart problems, so it is vital the the vet can rule these out with a thorough examination.
Treatment For Kennel Cough
Dogs usually recover from kennel cough within a few weeks and mild cases of Kennel Cough usually clear up on their own and are left to run their natural cause with no intervention.
Some dogs may need a course of medication from the vet to help with recovery, especially if symptoms are severe or if they have other medical conditions or health problems.
In some cases the vet may recommend a non-prescription ‘human’ cough medicine to help sooth your dog’s symptoms, it is very important that you follow the dosage instructions carefully in these cases.
How you can help if your dog has kennel cough
Just like when humans have a cold, your dog’s cough can be brought on by exercise, sudden exposure to cold air and excitement. If possible keep your dog in a warm environment, give gentle exercise only and try not to let them get over excited because barking is also highly likely to cause coughing.
It is a good idea to exercise dogs with Kennel Cough on a harness or headcollar and lead, rather than using their collar as this will put pressure on their already sore and irritated windpipe and may make things worse.
If your dog has a sore throat he or she may struggle a little with dry food – if you notice this you can soften dry food with a little warm water to make it easier to swallow. We recommend you avoid changing to tinned food if your dog normally eats dry food, because if your dog is not used to it you may cause a tummy upset.
Try to avoid exposing your dog to irritants such as cigarette/cigar/pipe smoke, aerosol sprays, room fragrance sprays etc.
Preventing Kennel Cough
As with any serious disease, prevention is always better than cure.
You can lower the chances of your dog getting kennel cough or becoming a carrier for the condition by having him or her vaccinated against the infection. The kennel cough vaccine provides cover for 12 months and protects against the most common causes of Kennel Cough in the UK. We give the vaccination intranasally (the vaccine is gently trickled into the dog’s nose); which enables it to get right to where it is needed as quickly as possible, where it produces a localised immunity within the cells of the nose which helps prevent the virus or bacteria from entering the dog’s lungs and causing the infection.
The kennel cough vaccine is administered separately to the combined injectable booster vaccine given for other common conditions (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza and Leptospirosis). You may need to ask to have the kennel cough vaccine administered additionally, because it is not usually given as standard. It can be given at the same time as your dog’s usual booster vaccinations or at any other time of the year.
It is a sensible precaution to have your dog vaccinated against Kennel Cough if he or she will be going into boarding kennels or attending dog shows, training classes, groomers and any other events where large groups of dogs will gather.
Many reputable kennels, groomers and clubs will insist that all dogs attending are vaccinated against the condition before they arrive.
Be A Responsible Owner
Dogs that have been infected with Kennel Cough can remain infectious to other dogs for several weeks after recovery! Please be a responsible dog owner,
- If your dog develops kennel cough please limit his or her exposure to other dogs during the infection and for at least 10 days after the cough has stopped, which will help prevent further spread of the infection. Avoid letting your dog meet and greet other dogs, especially in enclosed spaces.
- If you need to take your dog to the vets for treatment of Kennel Cough or for anything else in the following few weeks, let the receptionist know that you have arrived and then please wait outside the practice or in your car until the vet calls you through; this will prevent the spread of the disease to animals that may already be poorly with other problems and/or immunocompromised, which will increase their risk of catching Kennel Cough.
- Be sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect your dog’s bowls, toys and any equipment once he or she has recovered from Kennel Cough.
If you are concerned that your dog is showing symptoms of Kennel Cough or has recently been in contact with a dog that has Kennel Cough, please contact us at Castle Vets for more advice on 0118 9574488