Q & A: Kennel cough

Q: What are the symptoms of kennel cough, and how can I treat it?

A: Kennel cough is an infectious bronchitis of dogs that is caused by various infectious agents ranging from viruses to bacteria. Dogs with kennel cough are usually alert and still eating, but have a harsh, hacking cough that sounds like they have something stuck in their throat. This uncomplicated form of kennel cough is usually mild and brief, lasting one to two weeks, and does not warrant treatment.

If coughing is really irritating the dog or the owner, cough suppressants can be dispensed by a vet. These dogs should show improvement, if not cure, after one week.

In some cases, the kennel cough can progress to a life-threatening pneumonia. This usually occurs if the dog’s immune system is not strong and/or a virulent infectious agent is involved. These dogs will be listless, not eating and may have a fever; they are generally very sick and need to be taken to a vet as soon as possible.

Vaccinations against kennel cough are available, but they do not cover all the potential causative agents, so it can minimise symptoms of illness, and may not entirely prevent infection. It takes four days to generate a good immune response after the vaccination, so it is important to vaccinate at least four days prior to the expected exposure.

The vaccination will not help the dog if he is already incubating the disease.

Dr Vanessa Mcclure, veterinarian



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