Kennel Cough and Your Pet

Dogs in close proximity are at high risk for kennel cough.

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Since the summer months are the time that most of our dogs tend to be in more social settings – boarding, dog parks or even dog bars I wanted to discuss a common respiratory disease called Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC), more commonly known as “kennel cough”.  

This disease is highly contagious among dogs and cats and can be easily transmitted through the air and direct contact such as sniffing each other when on a walk, playing, or sharing water dishes.  Animals that are kept in close proximity to one another such as in shelters, daycare and boarding facilities, dog shows, and grooming salons are prime targets for this disease, hence the name kennel cough.  

This disease is caused by several viruses and bacteria (often times in conjunction with one another) — adenovirus type-2, parainfluenza virus, canine coronavirus, and the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica.  Though kennel cough is usually only seen in pets, there have been cases where immunocompromised individuals and infants have contracted this disease from Bordetella bronchiseptica.  

Since the disease affects the trachea and bronchial tubes, the most common clinical sign is a loud, dry, hacking cough often described as a “goose honk”.  Other symptoms include runny eyes and nose, swollen tonsils, and wheezing. In more advanced cases, symptoms will progress and can include pneumonia (especially in weakened or elderly pets), loss of appetite, fever, lethargy and even death.  Kennel cough usually develops 3-4 days after exposure to a large number of other pets, but may take up to as much as 10 days.  

Unfortunately, we cannot vaccinate for all the different organisms that can cause kennel cough but we can vaccinate for the most common ones. Even after being vaccinated, dogs may still acquire kennel cough (although usually a less severe form than they would have without the vaccine).  If your pet does get kennel cough they should be isolated until they are better and no longer contagious, in order to prevent the spread of this disease.

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