I was recently at the veterinarian's office with Blue and while talking to the technician I discovered that the clinic there were dealing with an average of three new cases of kennel cough every day! Now that's concerning since that's an average of 21 dogs being admitted for kennel cough every week. Most of the cases were mild and the dogs are expected to make a full recovery but some were unfortunately needing treatment to overcome it.
What is kennel cough?
I looked it up on Fetch (the pet side of Web MD) and this is how they define kennel cough:
"If your dog is hacking away or constantly making noises that make it sound like they are choking on something, they may have a case of kennel cough, or canine infectious tracheobronchitis."
The good news is that most dogs will recover from this, although the nerves of their owner may not. Blue had kennel cough back in 2020 and it's not a pleasant experience, luckily she recovered quickly and was back to herself within two weeks. It can be a bit alarming to hear the hacking and coughing and as her guardian all I wanted was get her better asap! I gave her plenty of time to rest, lots of water and all the cuddles and blankets she wanted (she loves nesting!). Her veterinarian did not recommend putting her on medication (usually antibiotics) so we went without it.
What does it look like?
Kennel cough is very contagious! If you think your dog may have it, contact your veterinarian immediately and isolate your dog from other animals to prevent it from spreading like wildfire. Here are the symptoms to look for other than coughing and hacking: sneezing, a runny nose, eye discharge, and you will usually notice your dog is more tired than normal and has a loss of appetite. Again if you notice these, call you veterinarian now!
How does a dog get kennel cough?
There are many ways a dog can get kennel cough but the most likely is exposure to a dog that is carrying or infected with it. A dog can also get it from being in a crowded area with little to no ventilation (such as in kennels, hence the name), from dust or cigarette smoke, travel induced stress and cold temperatures.
How do I help my dog recover?
Dogs with kennel cough are similar to humans getting a cold; to recover let them rest! Provide plenty to fresh water in a clean bowl, a comfy bed/sofa to sleep it off on and follow your veterinarians advice concerning any medication(s) and antibiotics. Setting up a humidifier near their resting place can help their airways recover as well. Recovery can take up to three weeks but for older dogs and those with pre-existing medical conditions it can take up to six weeks. Make sure you follow your veterinarian's advice since kennel cough without treatment can lead to a pneumonia and that is a lot more serious!
How can I prevent my dog from getting kennel cough?
Since it's usually transmitted from infected dogs make sure you don't go to crowded off-leash parks that are crawling with bacteria (one of which is the cause of kennel cough, others can cause more serious illnesses). Off-leash parks were discovered to be the culprit in the majority of cases the veterinary technician was talking to about from the story mentioned at the beginning of this blog. These parks are usually filled with this bacteria and with dogs with kennel cough do to the fact that some owners do not know how to recognize signs of kennel cough and continue to take their dogs to the park. This one contagious dog can run up to so many dogs during a one hour walk and infected most of them. Just avoid this festering pits in general and your dog will be so much happier for it!
Another easy way to prevent kennel cough is to book your dog at a boarding establishment that keeps dogs within their house and not a kennel where the ventilation is poor and the stress levels (usually both canine and human) are very high! Don't just go by the boarding establishment's website (those always make the place look great), go talk to the owner(s), ask questions and see where your dog will be staying when with them. If you get a bad feeling, walk away! There are so many places that offer boarding that it's not worth risking your dog's health and sanity by staying at one that gives you a bad feeling.
Make sure your home has proper ventilation, this will help your dog and you equally. Preventing dust from building up within the home will also help keep your pup's airways clear and functional.
There are three different vaccines offered to dogs to prevent kennel cough: an injection, a nasal mist, and an oral one. These offer various success rates and if you are interested in any of these I recommend you speak with your veterinarian for more information. I will not be going into details regarding the vaccines since I am not a veterinarian.
What do I (Spot On Canine owner) do to keep your dog healthy?
I always want what's best for the dog in my care since I love seeing them happy, healthy and sane. I do everything I can prevent kennel cough from spreading through my packs and infects the dogs in my care:
I make sure there is always ventilation during the car rides
I clean and disinfect my vehicle every single week without fail (of course I only use doggy friendly products!)
I received training from a veterinarian in how to spot the early symptoms of kennel cough
If a dog is showing symptoms of kennel cough, they do not get in my car or go near the other dogs. I immediately disinfect my hands and anything that dog has touched.
With these preventative measures in place I hope to never have to deal with an outbreak...and hopefully you will never have to go through it with your dog as well! Keep your pooch healthy and happy above all else :-)