Is kennel cough simply the result of barking a lot while in the kennel?

April 13, 2012

A pet dog commonly forms a strong bond with the family. The family is considered by the dog as its pack. As such, a pet that was separated from the pack will be highly stressed. The panic and the fear will be manifested in the form of whining, growling and barking. As soon as the back of the owner is turned, a boarded dog would start barking. Coughing is often the result of excessive barking. Owners of dogs that find the boarded or kenneled dog coughing, sneezing and retching may shrug the shoulders believing that the coughing will be gone once the dog is reunited with the family. Are you one of these owners? Did you ever consider the possibility that the dog is sick? While in the kennel, the dog may have been infected by a highly contagious disease – the Kennel cough.

The tracheobronchitis canine infection commonly known as kennel cough is a complex disease as it can be is caused both by bacterial and viral infection. This respiratory disease is mainly associated with the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria as 80 to 90% of the cases are caused by this organism. Parainfluenza virus, canine distemper virus, adenovirus and other infectious agents account for the other 10 to 20 % of kennel cough cases. The kennel cough name of the disease is a misnomer given that the spread of infection is not confined in kennels alone. The risk of transmission of the virus or bacteria is high in places where large numbers of dogs are housed. Your pet can pick up the infection from being boarded in kennels, in grooming salons or in dog parks. Kennel cough is an airborne disease. The coughing and the sneezing of an infected dog will spread the disease’s viral and bacterial causes. A dog can get infected by coming in contact with contaminated surfaces. Kennel cough is transmitted as well through direct contact as when dogs sniff each other.

Kennel cough has very noticeable symptoms. The dog would have dry hacking cough. The pet would usually hang down the head, retch and heave as if trying to dislodge a foreign object from the throat so that some owners unknowing of the true condition of the pet would try to dislodge a non-existent blockage. Intensified coughing can produce white foamy sputum. The dog may have a clear nasal discharge. These symptoms are indications that the trachea and the bronchi of the dog’s lungs are inflamed. Some dogs would not be affected by the infection. Apart from the cough the dog will be its usual active self. The dog’s voracious appetite will remain the same. Kennel cough though can progress into pneumonia. This secondary bacterial infection will cause the dog to run a temperature. The incessant coughing will cause the lethargic dog to vomit and the once clear nasal discharge will turn into thick yellowish or greenish secretion.

Most cases of kennel cough would not need treatment. In healthy dogs with strong immune systems, the infection is almost always self limiting. After a few days the hacking cough will be gone. The dog owner may choose to give the pet cough suppressant. A dog can get kennel cough several times in its lifetime as immunity to the infection is not lasting. After 6 or 12 months, the dog can be infected again by the causative agents of the disease. Antibiotic is normally not given to mild cases of kennel cough as resistance problems can arise. Resistance problems can be a difficulty when serious complications like pneumonia occur.

Kennel cough can be prevented by having the pet vaccinated. Vaccinations for kennel cough can be intranasal or injectable. The best prevention though is to keep the immune system of the dog strong. A healthy pet is much less likely to catch any infections and diseases.

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