Supportive Care for Dogs' Kennel Cough Symptoms

A common upper respiratory disease that can affect your pet is dogs' kennel cough. Puppies and unvaccinated dogs as well as dogs with immune dysfunction are prone to this disease. Dogs that come in regular contact with other dogs in places such as boarding kennels, animal shelters, pet parks, pet shows or in the neighborhood are more susceptible, because kennel cough is extremely contagious.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is also known as bordatella or infectious tracheobronchitis. In most cases, kennel cough is caused by a dual infection. Kennel cough is caused by the bacteria Bordatella bronchiseptica and viruses such as Adenovirus and Parainfluenza virus. The infection is limited to the dog's trachea and bronchial passageways leading to the lungs.

Transmission of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is easily transmitted from dog to dog and symptoms persist up to 3 weeks but the dog is capable of transmitting the disease to other dogs for several weeks after the disappearance of the symptoms.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough:

  • Persistent dry cough
  • Honking sound when coughing
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge that is white or yellowish in color
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Mucous at the end of a coughing spasm
  • Coughing, triggered by pressure applied to the throat or exercise
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite in severe cases 
  • Pneumonia in severe cases

Prevention of Kennel Cough

The only way to prevent your pet from contracting kennel cough is to prevent exposure to infected dogs. Preventative vaccinations are available to provide immunity against Parainfluenza, Bordatella and Adenovirus. However, vaccinations aren't available for all the bacteria and viruses that can cause the disease. Vaccinations should be generally given to dogs annually but pets that are at a higher risk, such as show animals or dogs that are often kept in kennels or shelters, should be given the vaccinations biannually or as recommended by the vet.

Treatment of Kennel Cough

A healthy dog will recover with rest and supportive care. Prescription antibiotics and cough suppressants can help to speed the recovery but if the cough is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not prove beneficial. If your pet is likely to develop pneumonia, it best to hospitalize him until his condition stabilizes.

Supportive Care

If your pet has kennel cough, it's important to isolate him so that he doesn't transmit the disease to other pets. You should ensure that your dog is warm and free from drafts. Don't allow him to go outdoors or get wet. Your pet should be given a nutritious diet along with plenty of fresh water. It's best to feed wet food, because dry food may aggravate the cough. You should also try to prevent the bouts of cough by removing his collar so that his throat doesn't feel constricted. A steam bath can help open the bronchial passageways and help him to get rid of the phlegm. Avoid exposing your pet to irritants such as cigarette smoke and ensure that his environment is stress free.

Although kennel cough can prove fatal in dogs with weakened immune systems, in most cases, dogs recover completely and without complications from this condition.