Our dogs rely on us to keep them happy and healthy. Even if your canine companion receives a nutritious diet, plenty of exercise, and regular check-ups with a veterinarian, your pooch can still be susceptible to various types of illness.
If you’re worried that your dog might have picked up a case of kennel cough, we can help! Since kennel cough is highly contagious and can easily pass from one dog to another, it makes sense why so many pet parents worry that their dogs could be carrying it.
Not only will we explain what kennel cough is, but we will also go over the signs and symptoms, so you will know exactly what to look out for. We will also explain how long it lasts and what you can do to protect your furry friend!
So, What is Kennel Cough?
While many people assume kennel cough is a specific canine infectious respiratory disease, it is a sort of blanket term used to describe a series of respiratory tract infections. If a dog becomes infected, the result is a highly contagious cough. While dogs are highly susceptible to the various viruses and bacteria falling under the kennel cough respiratory infection umbrella, humans are immune.
What Does Kennel Cough Sound Like?
As the name suggests, the most common clinical sign associated with kennel cough is a dry, hacking cough. In some dogs, kennel cough can almost sound retching or painful, which is why it can be so concerning for dog owners. In many cases, the cough sounds sort of like a goose honk, which gives you an idea of how loud it can be.
How Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough?
Just as germs pass between humans, dogs tend to acquire a kennel cough infection from other dogs. In most cases, the infection passes through airborne particles. When an infected dog sneezes, coughs, or even drools, particles containing the virus enter the environment, putting dogs around them at risk of becoming infected with one of the kennel cough strains.
Given that dogs are social animals, it is easy for kennel cough to hop from one dog to another. Close contact with an infected dog is often enough for the virus to spread. Whenever dogs sniff each other, share toys, eat or drink from the same bowls, or even just lick each other, they are at risk of spreading kennel cough. Whenever an infected dog’s saliva or mucus makes contact with another dog, kennel cough can spread.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Kennel Cough?
If your dog has suddenly started to cough after spending time around other dogs, there is always a chance they could have kennel cough. While some people believe that kennel cough can only occur after a dog has spent time in a kennel or doggie daycare facility, it can be spread anywhere, including outdoor locations, like off-leash dog parks.
Dogs with kennel cough are usually quite energetic, playful, and alert, even though they are infected. Rather than watch for a serious behavior change, listen for the distinct sound of goose-like coughing.
Your dog may also retch and gag before or after they cough. The gagging almost sounds like the dog has something stuck in its throat. If you have ever witnessed a cat bring up a hairball, it almost looks and sounds like that. Some dogs will even cough up small amounts of white phlegm and mucus; however, this does not always occur.
What Happens If My Dog Has Kennel Cough?
The good news is that the vast majority of kennel cough cases are typically self-limiting, meaning that most cases of kennel cough are resolved on their own and without treatment in as little as 7-10 days.
Since most cases resolve so quickly on their own, most cases do not require any kennel cough treatment. With that said, in cases that involve an immunocompromised dog, like a puppy, senior dog, or a dog with a serious underlying health issue, a case of kennel cough could make the dog more susceptible to secondary bacterial infections.
Bacterial infections occurring secondary to kennel cough can cause more complicated clinical signs and symptoms, like green or yellow phlegm or nasal discharge, lethargy, anorexia, and even depression. In cases where a secondary bacterial infection is suspected, a veterinarian may prescribe antibiotic treatment for the dog.
What About Serious Cases?
Depending on how severe your dog’s cough is, a veterinarian may speak to you about cough suppressants. As the name suggests, these medications can help suppress the cough, which is important if the cough is causing the dog to experience discomfort or pain.
Cough suppressants are generally reserved for very severe cases of kennel cough because kennel cough is productive, meaning the white phlegm and other fluids the dog brings up when they cough are the canine body’s way of getting rid of the infection. In some cases, suppressing the cough will help reduce discomfort but extends the amount of time that the dog is sick and infectious.
Infected Dogs Are Always Infectious
If you suspect that your dog has kennel cough, assume that they are contagious. Limit playtime at dog parks and other situations involving physical interactions with other dogs as much as possible. Even sharing toys and food bowls can be enough to transmit the virus to another dog.
We also recommend that you wash your hands and wear clean clothes when interacting with other dogs if you suspect that your dog has kennel cough. While humans cannot become sick, they can carry the virus on their skin and clothes.
Even after your dog has stopped coughing, you should still use caution, as kennel cough can be contagious for up to 7 days after the coughing has stopped.
How Do I Prevent Kennel Cough?
Kennel cough is usually caused by a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica, but it can also result from other bacterial or viral infections. Fortunately, there is an effective Bordetella vaccination to prevent the most common type of kennel cough.
The kennel cough or Bordetella vaccine comes in a few varieties; some are injectable, some intranasal, and some are oral. This vaccine is typically given every 6 to 12 months and should be given as recommended by a veterinarian.
The kennel cough vaccine is fairly similar to the annual flu vaccine given to people. Since kennel cough is not a specific disease but caused by a variety of viruses, the vaccine will protect your dog from a few strains, but never all of them.
Dogs that receive the vaccination for kennel cough can still contract the disease; however, they are less likely to get sick. If they happen to come down with a case of kennel cough, it is less likely to be a severe case that leads to pneumonia or other complications.
Most grooming and boarding facilities require dogs to be vaccinated for kennel cough, and they will usually accept the dog immediately after it receives the vaccine. That said, vaccines take about two weeks to be effective, so you may want to plan and keep your dog out of these facilities during that period.
If you suspect that your dog might have a case of kennel cough, a Hello Ralphie online veterinarian can help! Schedule a convenient and affordable online vet appointment, and you will have answers to your questions and concerns right away.
If you want to know more about virtual vet appointments work check out Common Questions About Online Vet Appointments or How Hello Ralphie Works for more information.