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What is kennel cough?

Small Pomeranian dog advice

For the majority of dogs kennel cough is not serious.

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Kennel cough isn't as restricted to who catches it as its name may suggest. But how does a dog catch it? And is it serious? Read on to find out.

By Dr. Laura Harvey BVetMed GPCert (WVA&CPM) MRCVS

Published on the 12/08/2020, 09:02

Kennel cough, or infectious tracheo-bronchitis, is the term given to a respiratory infection causing your dog to cough. It is known as “kennel cough”, as it can be more common in dogs who are staying in kennels due to a large number of dogs in close proximity to each other, in a stressed environment. In reality though, any dog can get it. There are multiple causes, but the two common ones are canine parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria. Most dogs will have a hacking cough that clears within two weeks, without requiring treatment.

Yet some dogs, particularly puppies and those with underlying conditions, can develop more serious symptoms, including a fever, lethargy and reduced appetite, all requiring treatment.

What are the symptoms of kennel cough?

The majority of dogs will have a hacking cough, sounding as though they have something stuck in their throat, when they do not. Most dogs will still be quite well in themselves, eating normally. It may be a dry or productive cough, sometimes accompanied by gagging, increased swallowing, sneezing, and discharge from the eyes and nose. Yet some dogs, particularly those with underlying conditions, will have more severe symptoms, including a fever, lethargy and reduced or no appetite.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What are the causes of kennel cough?

Kennel cough can be caused by a variety of different infectious agents, the most common are the canine parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria.

What treatment is there for kennel cough?

The treatment required varies depending on how severely the dog is affected. The most important thing is to rest your dog and to ensure they are well hydrated. It is better to feed soft food, or to add water to dry kibble and avoid things like chews that could further irritate the throat. Most dogs will get better without treatment, but some will benefit from anti-inflammatories to help them feel more comfortable. A minority of dogs will experience more severe symptoms, including a fever, lethargy and anorexia. Some of these dogs will also require antibiotics. Only a very small number require hospitalisation.

How do you treat kennel cough at home?

The best thing to do is to rest your dog. They must be kept away from other dogs and areas other dogs go to, until they have stopped coughing. It is also important to ensure that they stay well hydrated and are given soft food, or you can add water to their dry kibble to soften it. If your dog is at all lethargic or loses their appetite, please contact a vet.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What are the first symptoms of kennel cough?

Most dogs have a hacking cough, often sounding as though they have something stuck in their throat – when they don’t. It may be a dry or productive cough, sometimes accompanied by gagging, increased swallowing, sneezing, and discharge from the eyes and nose. Some dogs will also become lethargic and lose their appetite. If this happens, contact a vet.

How long does kennel cough last in dogs?

Kennel cough in dogs can vary in terms of how long it lasts, but on average it will probably be from 10 to 14 days.

Is kennel cough serious?

For the majority of dogs, no, it’s not. But if your dog has an underlying condition, especially those such as heart or lung disease, or those requiring immunosuppressive medications, it could be more serious. Complications include pneumonia, so contact a vet for advice.

When should you go to the vet for kennel cough?

If the cough persists for more than seven to ten days, but sooner if your dog is lethargic, not eating well, having breathing difficulties, or if you are otherwise concerned. Of course in general, if you have any concerns about your dog, please contact a vet.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Can kennel cough go away on its own?

Yes, in the majority of cases it will. Resting your dog and ensuring they are drinking well will help.

Should you take your dog to the vet for kennel cough?

If you dog is unwell in themselves, has a reduced appetite, breathing difficulties or underlying conditions, then yes, contact a vet. But if your dog is otherwise well and eating normally, then rest, soft food and maintaining hydration can help to ease the cough at home.

Can I give my dog Benadryl for kennel cough?

No, you must not medicate your dog without advice from a vet. In the UK, the Veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 states that only veterinary surgeons may diagnose, prescribe, advise on the basis of a diagnosis and perform surgery on animals. This is for the sake of ensuring animal welfare.

What can I give my dog for kennel cough over the counter?

The best thing to do for your dog is to rest them and ensure they are well hydrated. It is better to feed soft food or to add water to dry kibble and avoid things like chews that could further irritate the throat. You must not medicate your dog without advice from a vet. In the UK, the Veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 states that only veterinary surgeons may diagnose, prescribe, advise on the basis of a diagnosis and perform surgery on animals. This is to ensure animal welfare.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

How much is a vet visit for kennel cough?

This varies as charges can differ between practices in different areas. It will also depend on what, if any, diagnostic tests and medication your dog requires.

What disinfectant kills kennel cough?

Bleach, chlorine-based disinfectants and quaternary ammonium compounds should all kill the Bordetella bronchispetica, and likely the canine parainfluenza virus too.

Can my dog still get kennel cough if vaccinated?

Yes, although it is unlikely. This is because kennel cough can be caused by many different micro-organisms and the kennel cough vaccine in the UK includes the two main causes, canine parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica. If your dog does contract kennel cough despite having the vaccine, it is likely to be less severe than if they had not had the vaccine.

How long is kennel cough contagious?

The incubation period is two to 14 days. Dogs are most contagious while they are coughing, but there is some evidence that shows that they can continue to shed the Bordetella for two to three months after the cough has resolved.