All Things Dog

Kicking Kennel Cough

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If you board your dog at a kennel while you vacation, you may be concerned about him catching Kennel Cough. Here's what you should know about this common ailment.

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough, also known as Canine Upper Respiratory Infection Complex (C-URI) and Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, is a very contagious respiratory disease of dogs. A number of microorganisms have been isolated from dogs with upper respiratory disease, including viruses and bacteria. Bordetella bronchiseptica is one bacteria associated with this illness.

Affected dogs suffer bouts of high-pitched coughing and sound as if they need to clear their throat. Many dogs will cough every few minutes all day long. Coughing can also be triggered by extra activity or exercise. The symptoms typically last from 7 to 21 days and can be very annoying for your dog and you.

Does Kennel Cough come from unsanitary kennels?

Your dog can contract Kennel Cough in the cleanest, most well-ventilated kennel. The fact is, wherever there are numbers of dogs in a small area—such as a kennel, animal shelter, dog show, or even a dog park—the disease is much more likely to be spread. Kennel Cough can just as easily be acquired from your neighbor's dog or from a routine visit to the vet. Try not to blame the kennel operator if your dog develops Kennel Cough shortly after his stay at that facility. There may have been an infected dog, unknown to anyone, that acted as a source for other dogs in the kennel.

How is Kennel Cough spread?

Kennel Cough is spread the same way as human colds. The airborne organisms are carried in microscopic water vapor or dust particles. If inhaled by a susceptible dog, the organisms can attach to the lining of the trachea and upper airway passages, find a warm, moist surface on which to live, and eventually damage the cells they infect.

What is the best treatment?

Time is the best cure. Most dogs that contract Kennel Cough won't require any medication at all. They'll continue to eat, sleep, play, and act normally—except for that annoying cough. Ask your vet about treating the cough with non-prescription or prescription cough suppressants, if necessary. Should your dog have a fever—or if the cough is unusually persistent and severe—antibiotics may be prescribed to help with recovery.

Should I vaccinate my dog against Bordetella?

Generally, if your dog is not boarded frequently or involved in dog shows (or other events where there are large populations of dogs) you probably won't need to consider vaccination. If you do choose to vaccinate him, keep in mind there are two types of vaccines—an injectable and an intranasal. The intranasal is usually the better choice; protection is immediate, as opposed to the injectable vaccine, which takes longer to have an effect.

If your dog has kennel cough, remember that he should be back to his old self in about three weeks. Just allow him some time to rest and stay warm and comfortable.

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