Is Kennel Cough Contagious?
In recent weeks we have seen an increase in incidents of dogs coughing. This is due to an outbreak of infectious canine cough, or infectious canine tracheobronchitis. This is a highly contagious upper respiratory infection in dogs and can spread much the same way the human cold or flu spreads. It is important to remember that dogs can be contagious even if they are not showing any clinical signs of being sick which is one of the reasons these diseases can spread so quickly.
What Causes Kennel Cough?
In years past, it was commonly referred to as “kennel cough”. It was originally called kennel cough as it was very common in dogs after visiting a kennel where there are lots of dogs and could spread quite easily. Now, we know that it does not just happen in kennels. And, in fact, it is very commonly spread from one dog to another simply by sharing the same outdoor spaces and going for walks in areas frequented by many dogs.
Tracheobronchitis describes the location of the infection in the treachea or windpipe, as well as the bronchial tubes. There are several bacteria and viruses that can cause this cough and often more than one occur at the same time.
The most common are adenovirus type – 2, parainfluenza virus and a bacteria called bordetella. In addition to these three, there are recent indications of a least three to four other viruses that may play a role in contributing to canine cough. The symptoms can vary.
In mild cases, there can be a chronic cough lasting for several weeks. The most typical symptom is a harsh “goose honk” type of cough, as well as runny eyes and nose, lethargy, and sometimes increased sneezing is also seen.
How Do You Treat Kennel Cough?
There is no specific treatment for the virus component and it usually resolves within one to three weeks. However, when bordetella is involved, antibiotics are quite useful to resolve the infection. Cough suppressants may also ease symptoms.
Generally 7 to 10 days of antibiotics should resolve most of the symptoms related to bordetella. Prevention of infectious canine cough is achieved through vaccination. However, the vaccination can only protect so much against a few of the infectious agents so it is still possible for a vaccinated dog to develop a cough. Typically, the symptoms are not as severe.
Most bordetella vaccines are now given either intra-nasal or orally. These allow excellent local immunity in the nose, throat, and trachea where the infectious agents first attack and provide more rapid protection against infection than the injectable vaccine.
If your dog spends time outdoors, in dog parks, in kennels, at obedience classes or daycares, be sure to have them properly vaccinated for canine cough.