What is kennel cough

dog in a kennel
Written by: Sam Webster (BVetMed MRCVS) Head Vet at Joii

Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease caused by viruses and bacteria that cause respiratory disease (affecting the nose, throat and chest) of dogs. Whilst it usually isn’t dangerous or life-threatening, it can be a nuisance and also unpleasant to watch your furry friend have to go through it.

There are many ways to treat kennel cough and aid recovery so that the process is made as easy and painless as possible for your pet. Read on to find out the key things you need to know about kennel cough, the symptoms and how to treat it.



What is kennel cough?


Kennel cough is an infectious bronchitis in dogs. Similar to how we as humans can catch chest infections through a number of different viruses and bacteria, dogs tend to go through the same thing – kennel cough affects their respiratory system which of course, makes them cough. Dogs can pick up kennel cough from anywhere, not just the kennels, anywhere where another dog has been is a potential source of infection.



How long does kennel cough last?


The lifetime of kennel cough is up to 6 weeks, but in most cases many dogs will recover earlier, hopefully within 3 weeks. In some cases, it can linger for a little longer, especially if your dog has any pre-existing conditions that could potentially exacerbate it.


Dogs can also get kennel cough more than once – just how us humans can get the flu or common colds at multiple times throughout our lives.


What does kennel cough sound like?


Understandably, the main symptom of kennel cough is a forceful, hacking cough from your dog which sounds very much like they may have something stuck in their throat. The cough may sometimes be hoarse or followed by a gag or a swallowing motion and may in some cases even lead to production of mucus.


Other symptoms of kennel cough can include a runny nose, sneezing or eye discharge, but other than this your dog should appear healthy and retain their appetite.



How to treat kennel cough


If your dog starts coughing, it is always recommended to see a vet for an examination. Many other conditions can cause coughing, such as things stuck in their throat, lung disease and heart disease, so it is always advised to make sure nothing more serious is going on and that they do not require medication.


Dogs tend to recover from kennel cough without treatment in around 3 weeks, but there are a number of things you can do to speed up the process and aid recovery. While your dog has kennel cough they should be confined to the house and garden to prevent them from spreading the infection or picking up other bugs which will make their condition worse. Around the home, take off their collar as this can irritate their throat further.


Make sure your home is well ventilated and when you have a shower or bath, take your dog into the bathroom with you, as the steam can help to open their airways and help them expel any mucus. Ensure they are taking on board plenty of fluids and as they aren’t going on walks, make sure you play lots of games by hiding their dinner around the house to encourage activity and prevent boredom.


If your dog becomes unwell, stops eating, develops an increased breathing rate or laboured breathing, take your dog back to your vet for another examination and check over - some dogs with kennel cough can develop pneumonia and require antibiotics and other medications.

Can cats get kennel cough from dogs?


Dogs and cats can actually transmit kennel cough to each other – as well as to immunocompromised humans, although thankfully this is rare.



How can I prevent kennel cough?


An annual vaccination, much like the human flu vaccination, is available and it is recommended that your dog has this to help protect against the major strains of kennel cough and minimise any symptoms should they contract it.

One other thing to keep in mind is pet insurance – if your dog needs treatment or you find yourself having to pay vet fees, having dog insurance can help to cover those costs.

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