cute beagle on the streetWhen your dog displays signs of respiratory distress, what do you do? With the latest outbreak of canine influenza around Chicago earlier this year, and the spread of the same strain in our own backyards in 2011, it’s natural to conclude that your dog caught the nasty, contagious flu. However, while some symptoms (such as nasal discharge and the tell-tale coughing) are similarly unfortunate, your dog could actually be infected with common kennel cough.

What Is Kennel Cough?

Parainfluenza, bordetella, and adenovirus-2 are all involved with infectious canine tracheobronchitis, or kennel cough. Highly contagious and found around the globe, kennel cough creates a unique suffering for dogs of all ages, mostly in the form of a hacking cough. Kennel cough causes painful inflammation of a dog’s trachea and the airway called the bronchi which is responsible for moving oxygen to the lungs.

Puppies, pregnant dogs, senior canines, as well as dogs that are stressed, unvaccinated, and those exposed to other bacteria are at a higher risk of infection.

Exposure Risks

If your dog spends any time around infected dogs, it’s akin to riding the subway with a bunch of cold-infected folks. Hot or warm areas with little air circulation create a prime breeding ground for kennel cough and, true to it’s name, it’s commonly found where dogs are kept in close quarters.

A Serious Threat

Bordetella has an incubation period of 2-12 days, and if a puppy is exposed to other bacteria (distemper virus, for example) during that time, the intensity and seriousness of the illness amplifies dangerously. There are two vaccination options available (intranasal or injection) and we’re happy to discuss your dog’s schedule and risk potential.

Available Treatment

If your dog becomes ill, he or she can be placed on an antibiotic, cough suppressants, or a combination of both. Kennel cough can be painful – for both both of you – and we strive to make sure your dog is as comfortable as possible, and your worries remain at bay. If symptoms of nasal discharge and coughing persist, we may recommend a chest x-ray after a week of treatment.

If your dog is lethargic, feverish, and doesn’t have an appetite, he or she may have a more serious infection, such as canine influenza or distemper. Sadly, it’s not uncommon to mistake the signs of canine flu for kennel cough, and symptoms can develop into pneumonia.

Preventing Kennel Cough

Beyond vaccinating and limiting exposure, one more thing you can do is microchip your pet and make sure tags are current. This way, if your dog is ever picked up and placed in an animal shelter, he or she has a better chance of being returned to you quicker, cutting back on the time spent around potentially sick animals.

Keeping Pups Safe

Kennel cough can be disconcerting at best – and frightening at worst. The sound of that hacking cough, paired with the obvious discomfort of nasal and eye discharge, is downright awful. Please call us if you suspect your dog has been exposed, or if you have any questions about your dog’s protection against kennel cough. We are always here for you and your dog!