How to Spot and Treat Kennel Cough

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You just got back from a wonderful two week vacation. Unfortunately, your four-legged best friend was not able to accompany you. The family dog had to stay at a doggie hotel (aka kennel) where it was exposed to other dogs.

Sometime after you have picked up your pooch, you notice it is coughing constantly, gagging, and its nose has a watery discharge. Your dog may very well be suffering from infectious tracheobronchitis commonly referred to as kennel cough.

What is kennel cough? It is a type of bronchitis made up of various organisms: Bordetella bronchiseptica, Parainfluenza Virus, Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Influenza Virus, Canine Herpesvirus in puppies, and Adenovirus Type 2 to name a few. While not all of these microorganisms need to be present for a dog to have kennel cough, it is usually composed of a combination of these organisms.

Is kennel cough contagious? Yes. It is highly contagious, and it is usually passed on from dog-to-dog. Most dogs get it when they are around a large number of dogs like in a kennel situation thus the name.

How serious is kennel cough? Mild bouts of kennel cough last one to two weeks. Severe cases last longer and can lead to death.

What are the symptoms of kennel cough? In mild cases the symptoms are persistent coughing, retching, and a watery nasal discharge. Severe cases include the same symptoms, plus your dog will be lethargic and exhibit a loss of appetite. Kennel cough can lead to pneumonia. If you notice your dog is experiencing these symptoms, take it to a veterinarian right away.

How is kennel cough diagnosed? Aside from a record of your dog’s exposure to other dogs and complete medical history, your veterinarian might recommend one or more of the following exams based on the symptoms your dog is exhibiting: blood tests including a complete blood cell count, urinalysis, fecal exams, chest x-rays, and testing for the presence of bacteria that could be causing the kennel cough.

Treating kennel cough: If your dog is suffering from a mild bout of kennel cough, your veterinarian might recommend rest, proper hydration, and a healthy diet. In more severe cases, the doctor will recommend anti-inflammatory medications. Antibiotics will be prescribed if kennel cough-causing bacteria are present.

In summary, a dog can contract kennel cough when it is exposed to other dogs such as in a kennel. This type of bronchitis lasts for one to two weeks in mild cases. In severe cases, the symptoms last longer, and if left untreated, kennel cough can lead to death. Mild cases of kennel cough are treated by rest, hydration, and diet. Severe cases of kennel cough are treated with anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics.

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