Kennel cough is an infectious disease that causes heavy, honk-like coughing in your dog that can be highly contagious and very dangerous if not treated immediately. In fact, it is so dangerous that most kennels and boarding locations require vaccination from it before they’ll keep your dog overnight.
Dogs most likely to obtain kennel cough are those that have been held in locations with a number of other dogs. Young dogs and puppies are especially susceptible to the cough as they can get sick much faster and more severely.
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There are a number of signs that your dog has contracted kennel cough. The first is the upper respiratory symptoms like irritated eyes, runny nose and sneezing. They will then develop the signature cough – a loud cough that sounds like a honk. It will get worse when they get excited or active and will appear as though they have something stuck in their throats. They might even vomit lightly or cough up fluid with severe bouts. If they develop pneumonia as a result, they will show signs of fever and depression as well.
Other symptoms include general depression, breathing problems, loss of appetite and fever. If you see even one of these symptoms, it’s time to see your vet immediately.
A veterinarian will use chest X-rays to check for pneumonia as well as basic blood tests and fecal tests to rule out the chance of a parasite.
Treating Kennel Cough
Kennel cough itself is not necessarily all that dangerous as it is akin to the human cold in that it will eventually die off and is not treatable with antibiotics. However, it can develop infections such as pneumonia, so it should be treated at least mildly to keep it from spreading.
Cough suppressants, antibiotics for dogs that have developed infections, and at times antivirals are given to treat the cough. At home, you will need to keep your dog away from other dogs, minimize their exercise, get them plenty of fluids, and open their airway by removing their collar and giving them plenty of room inside.
Prevention can be optimized with the Kennel Cough vaccine. Even without vaccine, you can limit their exposure by keeping them away from large groups of unvaccinated dogs and by deworming dogs from a young age.