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What is kennel cough? Symptoms and treatment

Pet parents usually recognise kennel cough when their dog has a raspy, hacking cough. It is a canine respiratory infection that affects the upper respiratory tract, the wind pipe and the voice box.

Although it can sound worrisome, it’s not usually a serious condition and will clear up on its own in a few weeks.

Kennel cough can be brought on by a range of bacteria and viruses, in the same way humans can catch the common cold. It’s highly contagious and is more common during the summer months.

what is kennel cough


How do dogs catch kennel cough?

Kennel cough is an airborne virus which is why it can spread so quickly. Bacteria can also cause the condition through direct contact via water bowls, shared toys and close contact play.

Often dogs catch kennel cough when housed in shelters, day cares and kennels, which is where the name comes from.

Dogs can catch it from being around other dogs with the illness. But other factors such as poor ventilation, cold temperatures, exposure to cigarette smoke or dust and being kept in crowded conditions can increase their likelihood of infection.

What are the symptoms of kennel cough?

The main symptom is a harsh, persistent cough. But despite the constant hacking, most dogs don’t feel ill and will eat and go to the toilet normally.

You may also notice some sneezing, a runny nose or eye discharge. Symptoms usually appear three to ten days after exposure. It’s not normally life threatening, but in elderly dogs, puppies and dogs with existing illnesses symptoms can escalate and develop into pneumonia.

If your dog loses their appetite, becomes lethargic or has a low fever, be sure to make an appointment with your vet.

How to treat kennel cough

In most cases dogs will recover from kennel cough without treatment in a few weeks. A couple of weeks of bed rest is all that’s needed.

Vets sometimes prescribe antibiotics to help prevent secondary infections. They may also offer anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling and help your dog feel more comfortable.

You can also aid recovery by keeping your home well ventilated and avoid using a collar. A harness is usually advised to avoid any pulling on the wind pipe which may further aggravate your dog’s throat.

How to prevent kennel cough

There are vaccines available to help fight against kennel cough, in the form of an injection and a nasal spray. But it’s important to bear in mind these are not 100% effective.

Because the illness can be caused by a range of viruses and bacteria, it’s not possible to protect against them all. But it can reduce symptoms so it’s worth talking to your vet about your options.

Especially if your dog is often boarded elsewhere throughout the year or regularly plays with other dogs. With a quick spray up the nose your dog will be protected for the next 12 months.

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