Kennel cough is the medical name given to viral bronchitis in dogs. As in human chest infections, some other viruses and bacteria may also cause this disease. It mostly affects their respiratory system, inducing them to cough constantly. It can also lead to death if not treated well.
Like humans, dogs also have the ability to produce antibodies (antibody, an anti-viral molecule, or antibody, responsible for immunity) to fight infections. This is one way they can protect themselves from diseases. However, there are cases when the immune system of the dog is weak and vulnerable to bacterial attacks, resulting to kennel cough. The weakness of the immune system results to the body’s inability to differentiate the healthy bacteria from the harmful ones. Consequently, it starts to attack the healthy cells instead.
This leads to swelling and inflammation of the air passage. There will be increased production of mucus and phlegm. Some dogs may have severe allergic symptoms after experiencing this kind of condition. They will start sneezing heavily or producing greenish, blood-tingling and discharge from their noses. These are the most common symptoms of infectious tracheobronchitis in dogs.
Although infectious forms of kennel cough are considered to be contagious, it does not mean that the other dogs will catch this disease. This disease only spreads from one pet to another after one dog has contracted it. No matter how the disease spreads, the symptoms are very similar to common cold, thus, making it very contagious.
You can help prevent infectious kennel cough in dogs by cleaning your home regularly and making sure that you sanitize your carpets and floor. You should also disinfect your dog’s bedding materials. Clean your toys and your wood floors on a regular basis to keep them free from dirt and dust. In addition, you should disinfect the water containers in your garden and the hose that you use to water your plants. The combination of these cleaning materials and the disinfecting of your pets’ living area can help prevent the entry of bacteria and virus.
There is no vaccine for kennel cough because this disease is still viral. However, you can provide your pet with certain medications to help shorten the incubation period of the bacteria. Commonly used medications for this condition are viral antibiotics or antihistamines. You should however consult your veterinarian first before giving your dog any medication. It is important that you follow the dosage strictly.
Kennel cough usually affects puppies less than six weeks of age. A wet cough may indicate an unwell dog that has not received adequate treatment. Some puppies also choke on their mucus during coughing. This condition does not necessarily mean that your puppy has an illness. It is often caused by stress and the activity level of the affected puppy. Low activity level in turn stimulates the coughing reflex in the affected puppy which causes mucus to be secreted and causing the characteristic nasal discharge.
Symptoms of this disease include difficulty breathing, excessive salivation, coughing, wheezing, heavy breathing, heavy eye weariness and irritability. More severe symptoms include runny nose, difficulty swallowing and eye discharge with blood found in the stools. Treatment includes fluid gargling with salt water. However, as this is a viral disease, the possibility of catching this disease by traveling with pets is high.
Although this is an infectious disease, there is no need to panic if you find your puppy having symptoms. The incubation period for kennel cough is generally six to ten days. During this period, your pet should not be handled by other animals as the infection spreads infectiously between the animals. The longer the incubation period, the higher the chances of catch of this disease by other means and cause serious illness to your dog.
You will find that most cases are diagnosed during the initial stage of the illness. This is especially true in older dogs, as it takes longer for the disease to develop. Small dogs are more prone to symptoms as they cannot withstand large pressures against their lungs and nasal passages. Small dogs will experience more severe coughing as opposed to large sized dogs. Coughing can also result in blood in the vomit and diarrhea and may result in death if not treated immediately.
The first clinical sign to look for is a loss of appetite. Since the coughing is caused by bacteria getting into the airways, losing the appetite is a significant early sign of this disease. It is advisable to consult a veterinarian at this point and get a full check up done to rule out other diseases. If the clinical signs are present and it is confirmed to be kennel cough, the vet will prescribe an antibiotic for treatment. However, several weeks after the treatment has begun, your dog should not be handled or played with, but should be kept at home for observation.