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What is kennel cough in dogs?

Dogs who spend time in social environments are more likely to develop contagious diseases like kennel cough. Here, our vets talk about kennel cough in dogs and when you should bring your pup to visit our Lacey emergency veterinary clinic for immediate care.

What is Kennel Cough?

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, which is more commonly known as kennel cough. Kennel cough is a common respiratory disease seen in dogs and is typically caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria and canine parainfluenza virus which attack the lining of the dog's respiratory tract leading to inflammation and irritation of the upper airway. Under normal circumstances, this respiratory disease isn't serious for dogs that are healthy overall, but it is possible that it can lead to more severe secondary infections in young puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with a weakened immune system.

Kennel Cough is named after the highly contagious nature of this condition, which spreads most aggressively in places where pets are in constant close contact with each other such as kennels, dog parks, and multi-dog homes. Kennel cough is spread through the droplets of saliva from an infected dog coughing. The other dogs might then come in contact directly with the infected dog or in contact with any objects that the infected droplets have landed on such as dog toys, bowls, cages or blankets.

What are the symptoms of kennel cough in dogs?

The main symptom that you may notice in a dog with kennel cough may be a non-productive persistent dry cough that is described to sound like a goose honk or as if your pup has something stuck in their throat. There are other signs of kennel cough in dogs which can include runny nose, sneezing, lack of energy, decreased appetite, and mild fever.

The best option for a dog with suspected kennel cough is to isolate it from any other dogs and to call your vet to get advice on what steps to take next.

Generally, if your dog is healthy overall, and only showing mild symptoms, then there may not be anything you should do except allow your pet to rest. Due to the incredibly contagious nature of the condition, however, your vet may recommend simply isolating your pet from other dogs until the symptoms subside. 

However, if your vet notes that your pup's symptoms are more severe then they may recommend bringing your pet in for a wellness examination.

How will the vet diagnose kennel cough?

The only sure way of diagnosing kennel cough is typically through the process of elimination. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other and more serious conditions that share the symptoms of kennel cough. Because of this, there is a chance that your vet will take the time to examine your pet for signs of a collapsing trachea, heartworm disease, bronchitis, asthma, cancer, heart disease, and more. Coughing can also be a sign of many other conditions, such as canine distemper virus or canine influenza virus.

Your vet will use the results of the wellness exam as well as any diagnostic tests that they might have performed to provide you with the diagnosis of kennel cough in your dog.  

How is kennel cough treated?

Luckily, kennel cough is incredibly straightforward to treat if your dog is a healthy adult. Your vet may suggest avoiding the use of medications unnecessarily and may recommend allowing your dog to recover naturally.

For dogs that might be experiencing more severe symptoms, your vet may suggest being proactive and moving ahead with treatment by prescribing your dog antibiotics to help prevent secondary infections or cough suppressants to provide your pup with some relief.

Neck collars are not suggested while your dog is recovering from kennel cough, it is also recommended to switch to a body harness when taking your dog for walks or to use a humidifier in rooms where your dog spends time to alleviate some of your dog's symptoms. 

On average it typically takes about a week or two for your dog to recover from the symptoms of kennel cough. If you notice that your pup's symptoms are persisting for longer then it may be a good idea to schedule a follow-up veterinary appointment as there have been known cases of kennel cough turning into pneumonia.

How to protect your dog against kennel cough?

If your dog frequents busy areas such as the kennel or dog park, you should ask your vet about vaccinating your pet against kennel cough. Although this vaccine may help to prevent kennel cough it is not 100% prevention since kennel cough can be caused by several different pathogens.

Three forms of the vaccine are available injection, nasal mist, and oral medication. If the kennel cough vaccine is recommended for your pet, your veterinarian will choose the most appropriate form.

Does my dog need emergency care for kennel cough?

If your dog is coughing non-stop or showing signs of medical distress and your primary vet is unavailable, contact our Lacey veterinary clinic, Olympia Pet Emergency. We are here to help 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment.

Is your dog showing distressing signs associated with kennel cough? Contact our Lacey emergency animal clinic right away.

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At Olympia Pet Emergency, you can always access our full complement of emergency services without an appointment. We treat both walk-in patients and referrals for urgent veterinary care.

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