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Kennel Cough

“What is Kennel Cough?”

Infectious tracheobronchitis, otherwise known as Kennel Cough, is a common, highly contagious cause of respiratory disease in dogs. Currently, there is a Kennel cough outbreak in Auckland, and veterinary clinics are seeing a high number of cases everyday.

What causes Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is most commonly caused by a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica, and or parainfluenza virus infection.

How is Kennel Cough Spread?

Kennel cough is very infectious and contagious between dogs. Infection can be obtained from direct contact with an infected patient’s salvia or nasal discharge. Patients will typically have a classic ‘hacking cough’ which usually results in bringing up some foamy salvia, this salvia is a source of infection.

Much like with the covid outbreak in humans, any object which the infectious secretions have made contact with becomes a risk of infection, for example, food or water bowls, toys etc.

Given its highly contagious nature, kennel cough is commonly associated with socialisation, so a history of being to the kennels, doggy daycare, puppy training classes, or to a popular dog park may be the origin of the infection.

The incubation period of kennel cough is a week, so clinical signs may develop after seven days of exposure.

What are the signs of Kennel Cough?:

  • A harsh hacking cough

  • Coughing may be followed by retching or gagging and coughing up white foamy savlia

  • The cough may be triggered touching your dogs throat, or by pulling on their lead

  • Coughing may be worsened by excitement, panting or exercise

  • Typically the dog will be well otherwise

Severe infections can cause pneumonia which will be associated with worse clinical signs such as fever, lethargy, breathing difficulties, excessive panting, reduced appetite or anorexia, not wanting to exercise, or collapse.

How is Kennel Cough diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on clinical exam and history taken by your veterinarian. Classically unless the patient is systemically unwell, has a coexisting disease such as heart disease, or there is suspicion of pneumonia then no diagnostics will be run. In these cases then diagnostics such as chest x-rays, bronchoalveolar lavage, and blood tests may be run.

What is the treatment of Kennel Cough?

It can take about two weeks for the infection to resolve but can be longer in severe cases where pneumonia has occurred.

Infected patients need to be isolated to prevent spread of disease to other animals. Animals can shed infection parainfluenza virus for up to two weeks, and Bordetella bacteria for up to a month.

Socialisation of infected animals should be prevented during this time, so no doggy daycare, kenneling, or walking in popular areas.

Treatment is typically anti-inflammatories, and cough suppressants. Antibiotics may also be given. In severe cases of pneumonia, a period of hospitalisation may be needed if the patient needs oxygen therapy to help with breathing, and other supportive medications such as IV fluids and IV antibiotics.

What can I do at home to help my dog recover from Kennel Cough?

Your dog will feel pretty miserable for at least a week. Keep your dog rested, and make sure they are kept indoors in the warm. Just the same as humans with a cold, TLC goes a long way so lots of extra cuddles and pats will help! Some dogs prefer to eat wet or soft food when they have a sore throat so if your dog's appetite reduces, try some wet food instead.

Prevention of Kennel Cough:

Annual vaccination against kennel cough is needed especially if your dog is mixed regularly and has contact with other dogs, for example at training classes, daycare or kenneling. Vaccinations work to reduce clinical signs of kennel cough, and to reduce the shedding of canine parainfluenza virus.

Ask a veterinarian

Whilst kennel cough may seem straightforward to self diagnose, there are many causes of coughing, retching and gagging in dogs. Talk to a veterinarian if you are concerned your dog is unwell.

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