Recognizing and Treating Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, also called infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious upper respiratory infection that affects dogs. It is caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica, as well as by certain viruses, such as the parainfluenza virus. It is usually transmitted when dogs are kenneled together in groups, but this is not always the case. Kennel cough is the number one cause of canine cough. The disease has an incubation period of 3 to 5 days and usually lasts for about 10 days unless further complications develop.

Kennel Cough Symptoms

Kennel cough symptoms include a harsh, barking cough, often described by dog owners as the sound of the dog having something caught in its throat. A white, foamy discharge may be coughed up. The severe cough can make the dog very uncomfortable and can cause the animal to retch after coughing.

If your dog is displaying symptoms, make an appointment to see the veterinarian. Your vet will be able to discern whether your dog has kennel cough or some more serious illness. For instance, the difference between heartworm and kennel cough can sometimes be hard to discern from symptoms alone. Your vet will have the knowledge and equipment required to make the distinction.

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Kennel Cough Treatments

Kennel cough treatment varies from veterinarian to veterinarian. Because the disease is usually self-limiting, the main action may be to suppress the dog cough and make the animal more comfortable for the duration. Cough syrups, either over-the-counter brands like Robitussin or prescription cough medicine, may be required. Also, because kennel cough can lead to pneumonia, many vets also prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infection.

During treatment, separate the infected dog from others in the household and carefully wash all dog bowls and other shared items.

Preventing Kennel Cough

The best method of prevention would be to not expose your dog to other dogs, but since this is often impossible, your first line of defense against kennel cough is the Bordetella vaccination. The vaccine is given either through the nose or by injection. The fast-acting intranasal vaccine gives protection in as little as 5 days, but the injectable form may offer longer protection. This vaccine will have to be repeated on a regular basis if your dog is kenneled often or spends a lot of time with groups of other dogs. Kennel cough can also be associated with parainfluenza, canine distemper and adenovirus, so the full course of vaccinations is best to prevent this type of infection.