Kennel cough, also called bordetellosis, infectious respiratory disease and infectious canine cough, is an infection that is transmitted easily between dogs. It is one of the most common canine diseases, occurring worldwide and in all dog breeds.
The disease is often associated with dogs kept together in large groups, such as in kennels (hence the name), at dog shows, or in shelters. But in fact, it is so contagious that even dogs not exposed to those conditions can get it. Think of it as being similar to the human cold. All it takes is one infected dog coughing for the virus to become airborne. Once that happens, any dog in the area may contract kennel cough.
The virus attacks the dog’s windpipe and upper bronchi, although the dog will show little or no obvious signs of being ill. The most obvious symptom is a dry hacking cough that has been described as sounding like a “honking goose”.
This often panics dog-owners, but actually most cases of kennel cough are nothing to be concerned about. The dog’s overall health will generally be fine, with only the persistent coughing indicating that anything is amiss.What you should be concerned about though is the risk of kennel cough escalating into pneumonia, which is dangerous. That is why, any occurrence of kennel cough, no matter how mild, must be referred to a vet as soon as possible.
After examining the dog, the vet may decide to prescribe antibiotics for your dog. If the vet decides that the infection is minor he may decide not to treat it at all. He will, however, ask you to keep a close eye on your dog and to report any worsening in his condition.
The easiest way to protect your dog from exposure to kennel cough is to keep him away from dogs you don’t know. This includes dogs you encounter on the street or at the doggy park and is even more important if your dog is a puppy, with an underdeveloped immune system.
Be sure to also quiz the owner of any kennel or doggy day care your dog spends time at, although these facilities normally have strict rules and insist on proof of vaccination before they accept a dog.
Vaccinating your dog against kennel cough is an absolute necessity, even if he’s never likely to see the inside of a dog kennel. The vaccine is usually given with the annual “five in one” booster shot, but speak to your vet if you have any concerns in this regard.
Of itself, kennel cough is not a threat to a healthy adult dog, but you need to be aware of the dangers of secondary infection and take appropriate action.