Kennel cough is something that many of us think of as a relatively minor canine health condition, but it can be painful for dogs and may make dogs with a compromised immune system quite acutely ill.
It is also really contagious, and dogs don’t even have to have direct contact with a coughing dog to catch it!
Coupled with all of this, the kennel cough vaccination might not be one that your dog is given as standard when you ask your vet for your dog’s shots, and not only that, it does not protect dogs against all types of kennel cough; and so this is a canine health condition with quite a lot of variables.
This means that not all dog owners really have a good grasp on kennel cough, how it is transmitted, and what can be done to prevent it and protect dogs against it; nor how severe it can be, or whether or not it can be treated.
With this in mind, this article will answer some of the most frequently asked questions that dog owners have about kennel cough. Read on to learn more.
Kennel cough is an airborne condition, which is spread in particles from saliva and nasal secretions from infected dogs. A dog need not be sick to pass it on, and they may not be coughing themselves at the time to be contagious.
Much like the common cold in people, kennel cough is spread by coughs and sneezes, and you may never know what dog gave your dog kennel cough or how come they caught it.
There is a vaccination for one type of kennel cough, which immunises dogs against Bordetella, a bacterium that is responsible for most cases of kennel cough and the one that is most highly contagious.
If you take your dog along for their vaccinations and annual boosters, your vet will almost certainly recommend kennel cough vaccination. However, this is chargeable separately and is not included in the one-shot injection that carries the other vaccines, so do double check that you dog has been vaccinated against kennel cough specifically.
Because the kennel cough vaccine only protects against Bordetella as the cause, dogs can indeed become infected with other forms of kennel cough even if they have been vaccinated. This includes various strains of both viral and bacterial kennel cough.
However, the chances of a vaccinated dog catching any form of kennel cough are much lower than for an unvaccinated dog.
Unfortunately, having had kennel cough once won’t prevent a dog from potentially catching it again in the future. This is because there is more than one type of kennel cough, each caused by different things.
Additionally, if your dog had the Bordetella form of kennel cough, once their immune system fights it off, they’re unlikely to be infected with it again for anything up to a year; but their immunity drops after that, and they might once more catch it again in the future.
Kennel cough usually goes away on its own in healthy dogs, although this can take a few weeks and the dog in question will remain infectious in the meantime.
Generally, kennel cough is a condition that dogs fight off on their own and so whilst your vet should diagnose your dog and advise on what, if anything, they think is best to treat your dog or proceed with, some dogs will become sicker than others.
In some cases and where warranted, dogs with Bordetella kennel cough may be given antibiotics, and dogs that do become particularly sick with kennel cough may require supportive care, potentially as an inpatient at the vets, whilst they get better.
Kennel cough is generally thought of as a problem because it is so contagious and of course, having a respiratory infection of any type has a knock-on effect on the dog’s health, places strain on their immune system, and takes some time to recover, during which your dog won’t be in full robust health.
However with all of that said, kennel cough is generally not a hugely serious infection in the greater scheme of things, and affects dogs much like a cough, cold, or bout of mild bronchitis affects us humans. There can be exceptions; young puppies, elderly dogs and those with an otherwise not fully functional or a compromised immune system may become very ill with kennel cough, and in a rare, worst case scenario situation, it can be fatal.
It also weakens the dog’s immune system and makes them more prone to picking up other illnesses too, which can result in heightened risks and secondary complications.
With all of this in mind and coupled with how contagious kennel cough is, whilst few cases are fatal, vaccinating your dog to greatly reduce the risk is strongly advised.