The Deadly Cough for Canines

As we enter the holiday season, we start to consider where or who will look after our pets while we're away.

Besides considering the quality of care at kennels or pet boarding, you also need to be cautious of an outbreak of canine cough – a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease. Our vets report a spike in incidences during the colder months and holiday seasons.

Canine cough is also known as kennel cough. The name 'kennel cough' originated from the place the disease is most likely occur, the boarding kennel or the local pound. Canine cough is a common problem that our dogs continually struggle with. While the prevalence of canine cough is hard to determine exactly, it is still common and very contagious. Similar to the whooping cough in humans, the disease has the potential to become fatal unless vaccinated against.

Kennel cough can be caught anywhere that has been contaminated. In order to avoid your dog catching the virus, an annual vaccination will help reduce the chances of catching canine cough. The vaccination protects against the fatal strains of the disease and reduces symptoms by 80%. Boarding kennels and obedience classes will require that your dog has been vaccinated before attending.

"A vaccinated dog is much more protected than an unvaccinated dog. This means, they will get less sick and improve quicker. In many cases, vaccinated dogs are exposed to disease without getting sick at all, due to the immunity from the vaccination," notes Dr. Selma Gotsbacher, from Dr Paws.

However, there are a number of different strains of parainfluenza (that we also vaccinate against) that cause canine cough. Sometimes your dog may be exposed to a strain that is not fully covered by the vaccination and have a short stint of coughing. Like humans, who catch the flu even if they have had a flu vaccination, your dog may still catch a cough (even if vaccinated against the more serious strains of canine cough). Also similarly to humans, immunity from canine cough vaccination wanes after 6 to 12 months and therefore it is not only highly important to keep onto of your dogs annual vaccinations.

Treatment of kennel cough

Dr. Gotsbacher recommends that you make sure a vet confirms your dog has kennel cough. Once diagnosed, there are a few things that can help your dog:

  • Medication recommended by your vet
  • Keeping your dog quiet and comfortable. Barking a lot can make recovery longer and lead to secondary bacterial infections
  • Feeding softer food, if throat is very sore
  • Humidifying your dog’s airways, as demonstrated by a vet

You must also keep your dog separate from other dogs for 3 weeks. 

  • To walk your dog during this time, try to:
  • Walk later at night after most dogs have been out
  • Walk on lead only so you can stop your dog saying hello to other dogs
  • Keep away from popular dog areas

A healthy and otherwise disease free dog will recover more quickly. Puppies and older dogs are more at risk of serious complications from kennel cough.

Please contact us to learn more or if you are concerned about coughing in your dog.

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