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What Is Kennel Cough in Dogs? Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

If your dog has a rough, dry cough, they might be experiencing kennel cough. In this post, our Bellevue vets discuss the causes, signs, treatment, and prevention of kennel cough in dogs.

Canine Kennel Cough

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis (also called kennel cough or bordetella) is a respiratory disease commonly contracted by dogs. Kennel cough is often caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria and canine parainfluenza virus which attack the lining of the respiratory tract, leading to the inflammation and irritation of a dog's upper airway.

Kennel cough is rarely serious for most healthy dogs, however, it can lead to more serious secondary infections in young puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with a weakened immune system.

The disease is called kennel cough because of how contagious it is. Anywhere pets are in close contact with one another (e.g. kennels, dog parks, multi-dog homes) can cause kennel cough to spread rapidly amongst the group.

Kennel cough is transmitted from dog to dog through contact with infected droplets in the air. It can be caught through direct contact with an infected dog, or through contact with objects that the infected droplets have landed on such as dog toys, bowls, cages, or blankets.

Kennel Cough Symptoms in Dogs

The most obvious sign of kennel cough is a non-productive (no phlegm or mucus), persistent dry cough. The sound of your dog's cough may resemble that of a goose honk, or like they have something stuck in their throat. Other symptoms of kennel cough in dogs may include a runny nose, sneezing, lack of energy, decreased appetite, and/or mild fever.

If your dog is showing symptoms of kennel cough, keep them away from other dogs in the house and contact your vet for steps on what to do next.

If your dog is showing mild symptoms and is otherwise in good health, your vet may just recommend isolating your dog from other pets so the disease doesn't spread as they recover. In most cases, allowing your dog to rest for a few days will help with their recovery from kennel cough. However, if your pup's symptoms are more severe, your vet may recommend bringing your pet in for an examination.

Diagnosing Kennel Cough

Diagnosing kennel cough is more or less a process of elimination. Since there are several more concerning conditions that have similar symptoms to those of kennel cough, your vet will examine your pet for signs of a collapsing trachea, heartworm disease, bronchitis, asthma, cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.

Coughing in dogs can also be a symptom of canine distemper virus or canine influenza virus. Based on the results of your pet's examination and medical history, your vet will determine whether kennel cough is the likely cause of your pet's symptoms.

Treatment for Kennel Cough in Dogs

Otherwise healthy adult dogs usually respond well to treatment. Your vet may decide that no medications are required and that the best cure for your dog is resting while they recover from the infection (much like the human cold). 

If your dog is experiencing more severe symptoms, antibiotics may be required to avoid secondary infections, or, cough suppressants to help ease your canine friend's persistent cough.

During your dog's recovery, it's a good idea to switch from neck collars to a body harness when taking your dog for walks. This offers less strain on their neck which will help with their recovery. You can also use a humidifier in rooms where your dog spends time, as this can help to relieve your dog's dry cough.

Most dogs recover from kennel cough within a week or two, but if your dog's symptoms persist for longer, a follow-up veterinary appointment is essential. In some cases, kennel cough can lead to more serious conditions like pneumonia.

Protecting Your Dog From Kennel Cough

Does your dog spend a lot of time around other dogs? Ask your veterinarian about vaccinations that can protect your pup against kennel cough. Although this vaccine may help to reduce the transmission of 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 your veterinarian recommends a kennel cough vaccine, they will choose the most suitable form for your dog.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Has your dog developed a nasty cough? Contact our Bellevue vets to have your pup diagnosed and cared for.

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At Aerowood Animal Hospital, we are always accepting new patients. Our experienced veterinary team is passionate about the health of companion animals in the Bellevue area and can't wait to welcome you and your pet to our veterinary family.

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