How To Recognize Kennel Cough In Your Dog And What To Do About It

I think my dog has kennel cough, now what?

You’ve most likely heard of kennel cough, a common illness in dogs that is usually vaccinated against beginning at an early age with the Bordetella vaccine. But what is kennel cough, and how can you keep your dog from getting it? Read on to learn the signs and symptoms of kennel cough and what to do if you think your dog might have it.

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is a term for a group of several highly contagious respiratory infections in dogs that are caused by a combination of both bacteria and viruses. Kennel cough was previously known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, but its current technical term is canine infectious respiratory disease complex. It can spread through the air when infected dogs are in close quarters with other dogs, such as in a boarding facility. It can also spread through infected items such as bedding, toys, and dishes. Kennel cough is commonly prevented with the Bordetella vaccine, named for the bacteria strain that causes kennel cough, bordetella bronchiseptica.

Signs and symptoms

The most telling symptom of kennel cough is a dry, hacking cough that may sound like a honk. Other signs can include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Nasal discharge that seems watery
  • Loss of appetite
  • Retching

Symptoms may range from mild to more severe. Kennel cough can develop into pneumonia in some more extreme cases or in already compromised dogs, but in many cases, it resolves itself without treatment within one to two weeks. Because the symptoms can be similar to other illnesses, you should check with an online vet if your dog is displaying any of these symptoms. Consulting a vet can ensure that your pup’s symptoms don’t go ignored and develop into something more serious.

Preventing kennel cough in your dog

If you believe your dog will be in a situation where they are more likely to contract kennel cough, book an online virtual care appointment with an online veterinarian to make a prevention plan. If you notice another dog coughing, keep your own dog away and don’t share toys, dishes, or bedding. If your dog goes to a regular daycare or dog-walking service, make sure they have strict vaccine requirements and a policy in place for sick dogs to stay home. Keep up with your own dog’s vaccines, too. Dogs who have been vaccinated can still catch kennel cough, but they will likely have a much less severe outcome if they have received the vaccine.

What to do if your dog has kennel cough

If your dog does have kennel cough, there are several steps you can take to make your dog more comfortable:

  • Isolate your dog to prevent the spread.

Because kennel cough is highly contagious, it is important to isolate your dog from other animals if they are showing symptoms or if you have reason to suspect that they were exposed. Keep their bedding, toys, food, and water bowls separate from other dogs in your household, as these items can spread bacteria and viruses.

  • Consult a professional. 

If you think that your dog is coming down with kennel cough, book an online virtual care appointment today. Don’t wait to take action until your dog’s symptoms become worse. Kennel cough can sometimes be diagnosed without testing.

  • Switch to a harness if your dog normally uses a collar.

If your dog normally uses a collar and leash during walks, switch to a harness until they get better. A neck collar can cause additional coughing by putting pressure on the throat.

  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of rest.

During the healing process, your dog may cough less and recover more quickly if you go on shorter walks and do less exercise.

In Conclusion

Dogs can experience varying degrees of illness with kennel cough, from mild to more severe. While some mild cases may resolve themselves in just a few weeks without treatment, other cases may be more complicated. Severe cases of kennel cough in dogs can turn into pneumonia, and in rare cases even be fatal. Pay attention to your dog and your vet’s advice for their specific situation and monitor their symptoms and progress. If you think your dog will be in a situation where they are at increased risk of exposure to kennel cough, create a preventative health plan with an online veterinarian.

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