Like it or not, cold and flu season is right around the corner. While getting a flu shot should be high on your to-do list this winter, don’t forget to protect your furry friend as well. One of the most common diseases dogs can acquire (winter or not) is something called kennel cough.

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis,is a an upper respiratory infection that affects the lungs, windpipe, and voice box. It is caused by a variety of different viruses and bacteria, with the most common culprit being a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica. Other possible contributing agents are parainfluenza virus, distemper, and canine adenovirus.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough
As the name suggests, the number one symptom of kennel cough is a terrible, noisy dry cough. Apart from this, other symptoms to look out for are:

  • A runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Gagging
  • Low energy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

How Kennel Cough is Spread
Unfortunately, kennel cough is highly contagious and is spread in several ways. The main way dogs catch kennel cough is by inhaling the bacteria or virus into their respiratory tract. This means that direct contact with a sick dog isn’t necessary for the disease to be transmitted. Dogs can acquire it by breathing in the germs or coming in contact with contaminated objects. Basically, any type of exposure to the bacteria or virus puts your dog at risk for acquiring the disease.

The single most effective thing you can do to protect your dog from kennel cough is to get them vaccinated. Pet vaccinations, like the one for kennel cough, greatly decrease your dog’s chance of becoming infected. The vaccine for kennel cough is administered intra-nasally at first, and is then followed by an injection 3-4 weeks later, and once again 6 months after that.

The second best method of prevention is to limit your dog’s exposure to disease-contributing factors. This means only boarding your pet at a veterinary practice or kennel that has strict vaccination rules. Otherwise, your dog’s likelihood of becoming infected at a kennel without such standards is extremely high.

As with all diseases, good hygiene and proper disinfection are recommended to help keep germs and bacteria at bay.

Luckily, there are several treatment options for kennel cough should your dog ever catch this unpleasant disease. If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, the first thing you should do is take them to your local animal hospital to get an official diagnosis. Kennel cough is traditionally diagnosed through clinical signs, a physical examination, and possibly x-rays and bloodwork.  Once a diagnosis is confirmed, your veterinarian may prescribe medication to help ease your dog’s symptoms. They’ll also likely recommend using a humidifier or purifier in an effort to minimize your dog’s coughing. In the case that the underlying cause is a bacterial infection, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics. Last, but not least, you’ll want to make sure your dog gets plenty of rest and nutritious food to help it recovery as quickly as possible.

To get your dog vaccinated against kennel cough, schedule an appointment with Hillside Animal Hospital or visit us in person at our Scottsdale practice. We’ll do everything we can to help keep your dog healthy and disease-free!