Kennel cough, is a common respiratory disease in dogs and is transmitted dog to dog through airborne droplets. Despite being so common, we find that many pet parents really don’t understand what it is or how to prevent it. So we asked Jason Stull of Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine to create a list of basic kennel cough facts that every dog owner should know.
1. It is not a single virus
Most people equate kennel cough to the flu, a viral infection. But the term kennel cough, often referred to as infectious tracheobronchitis or infectious respiratory disease (CIRDC), is actually caused by several different viral and bacterial species (sometimes alone or a combination of several). Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet vaccine that can prevent it.
2. Any dog can get it
Although any breed and age can be affected, young dogs (especially puppies) and elderly appear to be most likely to become ill and most severely affected.
Puppies’ immune systems aren’t fully developed, which makes them more susceptible to various diseases. Elderly dogs and young dogs are at risk any time they are around groups of dogs like at dog parks, vet hospitals and daycare and boarding facilities.
3. Vaccines boost immunity
Even though there is not a single vaccine for kennel cough, many of the viruses that can cause kennel cough are incorporated into the standard vaccines recommended for all dogs. The most common vaccine for kennel cough is for the bacteria species, Bordetella bronchiseptica.
Because different species of bacteria or viruses cause kennel cough, vaccination will help prevent some infection, and may reduce severity of infection but won’t guarantee that kennel cough won’t occur.
4. Recovery is best with rest
Similar to people with mild signs of respiratory disease (such as a cold), rest is often the best treatment. Veterinarians may prescribe antibiotics if they think it is also bacterial. In addition, a vet might prescribe cough medication. For rare, more severe cases dogs might require supportive care such as intravenous fluids and hospitalization.
5. Contagious even when quiet
Dogs continue to spread kennel cough disease-causing organisms after they recover. Dogs should stay separated from other dogs for 2 weeks. When bringing your sick dog to the veterinarians, alert the clinic staff of your dog’s current or recent illness. This way, they can take precautions to protect other animals in the clinic or waiting room area.
Keep your uninfected dog safe by washing your hands after handling other dogs, whether they seem sick or not.
6. Staying home stops the spread of infection
We frequently hear the human medical profession telling us to ‘stay home when we are sick.’ The same advice applies to your dog. Any dog that is sick, or a veterinarian believes may have kennel cough, should not be around other dogs and avoid places such as dog parks, boarding facilities, puppy classes or dog shows.
Keeping your sick dog home is the best way to prevent and reduce the spread of infection.
If you are concerned that your dog has kennel cough or is sick, consult with your veterinarian and keep them home for 10 to 14 days to protect other dogs in your community.