For those who don’t know, kennel cough is a bacterial illness in the respiratory system (lungs) that your dog can catch when it spends extended periods of time in close quarters with other dogs, such as boarding facilities and veterinarian offices. If you’ve every boarded your dog, you already know that boarding services require a Bordetella vaccination before your pooch can spend the night. However, dog parks or dog walking groups (such as Yappy Hours) could also put your dog at risk.
The illness is characterized by a harsh and hacking cough, which sometimes sounds like the dog has something caught in its throat. Think of it like a canine common chest cold. Your dog may not appear sick otherwise, so if you don't notice a decrease in activity or appetite it doesn't mean you're in the clear.
According to PetMD.com, symptoms include:
- Dry hacking cough that may sound like honking
- Watery nasal discharge
- In mild cases, dogs would likely be active and eating normally
- In severe cases, symptoms progress and can include pneumonia, inappetence, fever, lethargy and even death
The time it takes for your dog to show symptoms after exposure to kennel cough is between two and 14 days. Because of this, many dog owners may do a little self-misdiagnosis. While dogs are the most common victims of Bordetella, it can also occur in cats, rabbits, pigs and guinea pigs. It is also possible for people to acquire the human version, whooping cough. Dogs get rid of the Bordetella organisms for about three months, and it's highly contagious among other dogs.
The good news is that kennel cough usually goes away in about four to 10 days, similar to a common human cold. Some more serious bouts of the illness can last up to three weeks. Antibiotics and cough suppressants are usually prescribed to provide your dog with some temporary relief.
If you attend Yappy Hours, Fur Kids Foundation recommends that your dog(s) have a Bordetella vaccination. You have a couple of options for getting your pet vaccinated—a shot or a nasal treatment. Puppies can't get the injectable variety until they are four months old, and the nasal vaccine can be given to puppies as young as three weeks old. The vaccine is believed to last up to six months, but is only effective in about 70 percent of dogs; which means that even if your dog has been vaccinated, it could still acquire kennel cough. Also, if you plan on boarding your dog, vets recommend that your pup receive the vaccination at least five days prior to overnighting in a facility.
Be sure to speak with your veterinarian about Bordetella and other vaccinations at your next yearly visit.