Six Important Facts You Need To Know About Kennel Cough In Dogs

Kennel cough is probably one of the best-known of all canine health conditions, and one that is highly contagious and that can easily and quickly spread across a large population of dogs.

However, thanks to vigilance on the part of both vets and dog owners and the availability of a vaccine to protect dogs against kennel cough, how the condition is caught and spread and how it can be curbed and prevented are things that not every dog owner knows – and they should.

Kennel cough in dogs can be much more than a minor infection and short-term annoyance, and can hang around for a long time, having a significant effect on your dog’s health and quality of life, as well as posing a threat to the life of dogs with underdeveloped or weak immune systems.

This includes puppies, elderly dogs, dogs with immune disorders, and dogs who are suffering from another illness that can weaken the immune system over time too. However, kennel cough is not exclusive to certain at-risk groups or dogs that stay in boarding kennels – and in this article, we will share six important facts that all dog owners should know about kennel cough, to keep their dogs safe. Read on to learn more.

Kennel cough is highly contagious and spreads quickly

It would be hard to overstate how contagious kennel cough is, and how quickly it can spread through a local area’s dog population. Kennel cough is transmitted by means of direct contact with an infected dog, as well as potentially from sharing food and water bowls – but the main method of transmission is by coughing and sneezing, as the condition can survive outside of a host body for a while, and make the jump to another healthy dog if an infected dog is coughing and sniffling nearby.

The condition got its name because of the way it spreads to quickly though populations of dogs kept in close quarters – such as in boarding kennels. Most kennels will only board dogs that have been vaccinated against the condition – and one dog coughing in a boarding kennel will almost certainly cause concern among the staff, because of the potential risk to the other dogs present.

Kennel cough sounds very distinctive

Kennel cough is not just a catch-all term used to describe a coughing dog – much as human whooping cough has a very distinctive sound that helps with accurate diagnosis, so too does kennel cough sound rather different to a regular cough.

The sound of kennel cough is a very powerful, honking cough, which is hard to mistake for a general case of the sniffles once you’ve heard it once.

Your dog will need special care at home if they are diagnosed with kennel cough

If your dog is diagnosed with kennel cough, they will need to care and support to help them to recover at home after you have seen your vet. This will include letting your dog get plenty of rest and keeping them warm to help them to fight off the infection and avoid the condition worsening – and you should limit exercise and activity until your dog is on the mend.

It is important to remember how contagious kennel cough is, and that your dog may pose a risk to other dogs until they are fully recovered, so keep them isolated from dogs that don’t live with them as much as possible.

You can protect your dog from kennel cough with vaccination

There is a vaccination widely available to protect dogs from kennel cough, which can help to ensure that they do not catch the cough even if directly exposed, and that can make the condition much milder if your dog is infected.

Check your dog’s vaccination records if you’re not sure if they have had the vaccine, which is delivered in the form of a nasal spray – and make sure you keep your dog up to date with their annual boosters, and confirm that the kennel cough vaccine is included.

Antibiotics are not always appropriate to treat kennel cough

Kennel cough is an upper respiratory tract in infection that can be caused by several different bacterial and viral conditions, and the strain that is vaccinated against as standard is Bordetella, which is a bacteria.

If your vet confirms that your dog’s kennel cough is caused by Bordetella or another bacterial agent, antibiotics may well help your dog to recover more quickly, and to clear up the condition. However, some forms of kennel cough are viral rather than bacterial – and so antibiotics won’t help in those cases.

Kennel cough is theoretically contagious to humans and cats too

For the majority of its history, kennel cough has been considered to be a species-specific condition, or one that is unique to dogs. However, further studies into kennel cough over the last few years have identified that Bordetella – the most common cause of kennel cough in dogs – can theoretically infect people too, as well as certain other animals such as cats.

Whilst there have been no formally recorded cases of persons in the UK developing a Bordetella infection from a dog with kennel cough, if you aren’t in peak health or suffer from an immune-mediated illness or health condition, you should bear this in mind.


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