Kennel cough is a highly infectious respiratory disease that affects dogs of all ages, but is more common in puppies and older dogs with weakened immune systems. It is transmitted in close contact with infected dogs, such as in kennels, dog shows, grooming facilities, and other dog-related activities. Kennel cough can be caused by various pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The symptoms of kennel cough include a persistent dry cough, gagging, retching, and sometimes fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite. If left untreated, kennel cough can progress into a severe respiratory infection, which can be life-threatening to dogs. Therefore, it is important to seek prompt veterinary care if your dog shows signs of kennel cough.
The Treatment of Kennel Cough
Can kennel cough be cured? The short answer is yes. Kennel cough is a self-limiting disease, which means that it can run its course and resolve on its own within 1-3 weeks. However, treatment can help to relieve the symptoms and speed up the recovery process, as well as prevent secondary bacterial infections from occurring. The treatment of kennel cough depends on the cause and severity of the infection, as well as the age, health, and vaccination status of your dog. Here are some common treatments for kennel cough:
Bronchodilators are medications that help to open up the airways and ease breathing. They are often prescribed for dogs with severe coughing or wheezing, which can cause fatigue and stress. Bronchodilators work by relaxing the smooth muscles of the bronchioles, which are the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. This allows more air to flow through the airways and reduces the coughing episodes. Some common bronchodilators used for kennel cough include theophylline, terbutaline, and albuterol. Bronchodilators may have side effects, such as vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and increased heart rate, so it is important to follow the dosage and frequency instructions given by your veterinarian.
Cough suppressants are medications that help to suppress the cough reflex and reduce the frequency and intensity of coughing. They are often prescribed for dogs with dry, hacking coughs that are not productive (i.e., not bringing up phlegm), as these types of coughs can irritate the throat and cause more coughing. Cough suppressants work by blocking the signals that trigger the cough reflex, which allows the throat and lungs to rest and heal. Some common cough suppressants used for kennel cough include dextromethorphan, codeine, and hydrocodone. Cough suppressants may have side effects, such as sedation, constipation, and dry mouth, so it is important to use them under the guidance of your veterinarian.
Antibiotics are medications that kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria. They are often prescribed for dogs with kennel cough that are at risk of developing secondary bacterial infections, such as pneumonia. Antibiotics can also help to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms, as well as prevent the spread of infection to other dogs. However, antibiotics are not effective against viral or fungal infections, which are also common causes of kennel cough. Antibiotics may have side effects, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and allergic reactions, so it is important to use them only when necessary and under the guidance of your veterinarian.
Fluids and Nutrition
Fluids and nutrition are important for dogs with kennel cough, as they can help to support the immune system and prevent dehydration and malnutrition. Dogs with severe coughing may lose their appetite and refuse to eat or drink, which can worsen their condition. Therefore, it is important to offer your dog fresh water and high-quality food that is easy to digest and contains essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. You can also offer your dog broths, soups, or other liquids that are rich in electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium, to help replace lost fluids and minerals. However, you should avoid giving your dog fluids or food that are too cold, too hot, too sweet, or too salty, as they can irritate the throat and stomach.
Preventing Kennel Cough
The best way to treat kennel cough is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Kennel cough is highly contagious, so it is important to take steps to minimize the risk of exposure to infected dogs and environments. Here are some tips for preventing kennel cough:
Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent kennel cough, as it can stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies that can fight off the pathogens that cause kennel cough. The kennel cough vaccine is usually given as a combination vaccine that protects against multiple pathogens, including bordetella bronchiseptica, canine adenovirus, and parainfluenza virus. The vaccine can be given as an injection or as an intranasal spray, and is recommended for all dogs that are exposed to communal dog areas, such as kennels, dog parks, and daycare facilities. The vaccine may not provide complete protection against all strains of kennel cough, but can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms if infection occurs. It is important to follow the vaccination schedule and booster shots recommended by your veterinarian.
Cleanliness and Hygiene
Cleanliness and hygiene are important for preventing the spread of kennel cough, as the pathogens that cause kennel cough can survive on surfaces and in the air for several days. Therefore, it is important to clean and disinfect communal dog areas regularly, using a disinfectant that is effective against kennel cough pathogens. You should also avoid sharing food, water, toys, or bedding with other dogs, and wash your hands and clothes after handling dogs that may be infected. If you suspect that your dog has kennel cough, keep them isolated from other dogs until they have recovered.
Strengthening the Immune System
Strengthening the immune system is important for preventing and fighting off infections, including kennel cough. A healthy immune system can help to identify and destroy viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens before they cause harm to the body. You can help to strengthen your dog’s immune system by providing them with a balanced and nutritious diet, regular exercise, and plenty of rest and sleep. You can also offer your dog supplements or foods that are rich in immune-boosting nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids. You should also follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for preventive care, such as regular check-ups, blood tests, and parasite control.
Kennel cough is a common respiratory disease that affects dogs of all ages and breeds. Although kennel cough can be uncomfortable and sometimes serious, it can be cured with proper treatment and care. If you suspect that your dog has kennel cough, seek veterinary care as soon as possible to prevent complications and promote recovery. You can also prevent kennel cough by vaccinating your dog, practicing good cleanliness and hygiene, and strengthening their immune system. With these measures, you can help to keep your dog healthy and happy.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: What are the signs and symptoms of kennel cough?
- A: The signs and symptoms of kennel cough include a persistent dry cough, gagging, retching, and sometimes fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
- Q: How is kennel cough diagnosed?
- A: Kennel cough is typically diagnosed based on the dog’s clinical signs and medical history. Additional tests, such as blood tests, x-rays, or bacterial cultures, may be performed to rule out other respiratory diseases or infections.
- Q: How long does kennel cough last?
- A: Kennel cough typically lasts for 1-3 weeks, but may take longer to resolve in some cases.
- Q: Can humans get kennel cough?
- A: Kennel cough is a zoonotic disease, which means that it can be transmitted between animals and humans. However, it is rare for humans to get kennel cough, and the symptoms are usually mild and self-limiting.
- Q: What is the best way to prevent kennel cough?
- A: The best way to prevent kennel cough is to vaccinate your dog, practice good cleanliness and hygiene, and strengthen their immune system.
- “Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease.” American Veterinary Medical Association
- “Kennel Cough in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention and Treatment.” American Kennel Club
- “Bordetella and Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough).” Merck Veterinary Manual