K is for kennel cough

Kennel cough

You can think of kennel cough as a dog’s version of a cold. It easily spreads from one dog to another when they are kept in close quarters such as a shelter, boarding kennel or groomer’s.

A dog cold versus dog flu

Kennel cough is not the same thing as canine infectious respiratory disease — sometimes called dog flu — which has infected more than 1,000 dogs in the Chicago area this month.

Signs of kennel cough include a harsh persistent cough that can sound like a goose honk. It’s louder and more frequent than what is called a “reverse sneeze,” which some dogs and breeds do to clear post-nasal drip or other irritations from their throats. A sick dog may also sneeze, have a runny nose or a discharge from the eyes. Most dogs with kennel cough don’t lose their appetite or become listless.

By contrast, dogs with canine infectious respiratory disease may have a runny nose, a low-grade fever or act depressed or lethargic. Some dogs show no signs of illness while others become severely sick.  Six dogs have died from it. This disease is caused by a virus believed to have originated in Asia.

The term “kennel cough” is a general term for diseases that inflame the throat, larynx (voice box) and lungs. These diseases are caused by various bacteria or viruses.  The most common cause is a bacterium called Bordetella bronchiseptica m. That’s why kennel cough is sometimes called bordetella.

Dogs are at a higher risk of getting kennel cough if they are in crowded, poorly ventilated situations like kennels; exposed to dust or cigarette smoke; are under stress; or are in cold temperatures. In most cases, a dog can recover from kennel cough without treatment in three to six weeks, but it can turn into life-threatening pneumonia in dogs that are older or in poor health.

Talk to your vet

Having your dog checked by a veterinarian is the wisest course of action.  With the speed of infection occurring with dog flu in Chicago, it’s important to determine whether your dog has kennel cough or dog flu. In the case of kennel cough, a vet can prescribe antibiotics and cough medicines that will help your dog get better more quickly and more comfortably. (There is also a vaccine for dog flu, but viruses can change and making it necessary to develop a new vaccine.)

Vaccines are available to help protect a dog against bordetella. These include versions that are injected, sprayed into a dog’s nose or given by mouth. The bordetella vaccine is not considered one of the core vaccinations that a dog needs.  Some people believe that it is unnecessary unless a dog is at high risk of infection. The best way to reach a decision about this is to discuss the matter with your veterinarian. Your dog’s activities, exposure to other dogs, age and general health are all factors to be considered.

Wise precautions

There are no known cases of a human getting either kennel cough or dog flu.  Bacteria and viruses can be spread to other animals in your household by touch or contamination of bedding, clothing, toys, food and water bowls and other items. A sick dog should be separated from other animals in the house. You should wash your hands well after touching a sick dog.

This is the eleventh post in the 2015 A-to-Z Blog Challenge. Beginning with A and continuing on to Z, we’re committed to writing posts using the letters of the alphabet in order from Monday through Friday. Check back tomorrow for “L is for finding lost dogs.”