We’ve all heard of kennel cough, which is a highly contagious infection that causes dogs to suffer from a nasty, hacking cough. But many dog owners don’t know that kennel cough can be picked up from anywhere, not just from kennels.
Kennel cough is a contagious bronchitis that spreads when an infected dog comes into contact with other dogs. The germs are spread when the virus or bacteria from the infected dog becomes airborne and is then inhaled by a healthy dog. As such, when a group of dogs share the same space for extended periods the risk of infection is pretty high. But the infection can also be spread via things like food and water bowls, and dog toys.
If your dog becomes infected she might just have a fairly mild and brief case of coughing that goes away on its own. Or, she can become quite sick, developing pneumonia as a result of the infection. Young pups, older dogs and pets that are unwell are more likely to suffer more as their immune systems are weaker than healthy pets.
Dogs make all sorts of noises – sneezing, wheezing and coughing is quite normal in healthy dogs, so how do you tell if a cough is of the kennel kind? Dogs with this infection will have a persistent, forceful cough that often ends with a gag or the dog retching. She might even cough up foamy mucous. She might also have a runny nose, sneeze more often and have weeping eyes. Signs of pneumonia include fever, poor appetite and lethargy.
If your dog has been exposed to kennel cough it can take up to two weeks for symptoms to appear, so even if your dog hasn’t been around other dogs for a couple of weeks, she could still be carrying the kennel cough infection. The cough lasts one to two weeks.
Of course, it’s important to head to your vet if you think something is up. If you think it is kennel cough, let the vet know beforehand, as you might be asked to wait outside or put in another room away from other pets at the clinic due to the contagious nature of this infection. If your vet diagnoses kennel cough, but it’s not a bad case, you might be sent home with no further treatment (dogs often get over the infection on their own). You might, however, be prescribed antibiotics to kill off the bacterial infection or an anti-inflammatory medication to relieve the symptoms.
While most cases of kennel cough improve reasonably quickly, if your dog doesn’t seem to be getting better after about a week, it’s worth heading back to the vet. Your dog might have another condition that stops her from fighting the kennel cough or she could be developing pneumonia.