You come back from vacation and pick your dog up from the kennel. A few days later he starts coughing – and it’s not a nice cough either, it’s a horrible one that sounds almost like a goose honking.
The diagnosis: Canine infectious tracheobronchitis – otherwise known as “kennel cough.”
How To Treat Kennel Cough
Kennel cough is highly contagious and caught from other dogs – most outbreaks happen in places where a lot of dogs are being kept together. It causes inflammation of the voice box and windpipe. In addition to the cough, your dog may have a runny nose and develop a low fever.
It is generally not serious except in young puppies (under six months) and dogs with a compromised immune system. However, canine distemper and canine influenza can have similar symptoms, so you should have your dog checked by the vet even if you think it is “just” kennel cough. Because kennel cough is highly contagious, your dog should be completely isolated from other dogs
Should you vaccinate, and how often?
There is a vaccine against kennel cough – but it is not fully effective because technically, kennel cough is not a disease – it is a set of symptoms. The vaccine protects dogs only from the most common cause – a bacterium called bordetella. It does not protect the dog against the various other bacteria and virii that can cause kennel cough. However, it is still highly beneficial to some dogs.
If your dog seldom interacts with other dogs, then it might not be necessary to vaccinate against bordetella. However, if your dog is going to be boarded, you should vaccinate at least two months before your planned vacation (unvaccinated dogs require two shots two to four weeks apart). The intranasal vaccine can provide faster protection. If you board your dog fairly regularly or if you have him professionally groomed, he should be vaccinated every year. Dogs that are in day care, showing, or regularly attending a training center should be vaccinated every six months.
What if your dog has kennel cough?
First of all, it is highly contagious. Your dog should be kept away from other dogs (including avoiding the dog park) for at least two weeks or until they have fully recovered and stopped coughing. This normally takes at most three weeks, but older or younger dogs can take longer to recover. Vaccinated dogs often recover a lot more quickly. The dog should be rested as much as possible and if taken for a walk, you should consider using a harness not a collar. Many dogs with kennel cough act normal except for the cough.
If your dog loses his appetite, develops more than a slight fever, has issues breathing or is coughing up a lot of phlegm call the vet – especially if it is an older dog. Kennel cough can sometimes turn into pneumonia and require hospitalization.
Kennel cough is not a big deal for healthy dogs – but you should still protect your dog, and others, with vaccination.