What is kennel cough?

Kennel Cough Treatment

The bordetella vaccine inoculates dogs against kennel cough.
The bordetella vaccine inoculates dogs against kennel cough.

­If you leave a dog at a boarding shelter for a long weekend, you probably won't notice any signs of kennel cough until after you bring it back home. Once a dog inhales the infectious bacteria, it generally takes a week to 10 days for your pet to show symptoms. In a routine case, a dog with kennel cough will exhibit the telltale hacking and sneezing that may produce a whitish substance. Although the harsh cough may sound painful for your pooch, it's the body's way of getting rid of the bordetella bacteria. Aside from that, most dogs with kennel cough act normally.

It takes around two weeks for kennel cough to run its course. To ease the recovery period, your veterinarian can prescribe antibiotics and cough suppressants to relieve the symptoms. If you have a healthy, younger dog, a trip to the vet isn't absolutely necessary. However, young puppies and older dogs with previous health problems should get a checkup to be safe. In severe cases, kennel cough can spiral into pneumonia, which certainly demands a trip to the doctor. Signs of that happening include green or yellow nasal discharge, high fever, diminished appetite and breathing problems.

Although any dog can come down with a case of kennel cough, certain breeds are more susceptible to it than others. For instance, some flat-faced dogs, such as bulldogs and pugs, have elongated palates. That excess soft tissue at the back of their mouths partially blocks the dogs' breathing passages, which makes it more difficult to cough. When dogs with elongated palates catch kennel cough, their bodies have a harder time expelling the phlegm. Young puppies and older, weaker dogs have a higher tendency to develop the sickness as well.

Owners who regularly board or show their dogs might consider kennel coug­h vaccination. Dogs as young as two weeks old can receive the treatment via injection or through their noses, and it lasts for 10 to 12 months [source: Dog World]. But don't take Fido in for immunization a day before boarding him and expect the dog to be adequately protected: It takes about four days for kennel cough vaccine to build an immune response [source: Dog World]. Also, vaccinate only healthy pups; it won't do any good to vaccinate dogs that already have kennel cough.

In case you're concerned about your dog catching kennel cough while being boarded or groomed, do your homework before choosing a sitter. Talk to other dog owners and find out where they board their pets. Check out the facility's cleanliness and the handlers' credentials. Or select a location that boards only a small number of animals at once. As a precaution, many kennels require prospective canine residents to have proof of bordetella immunization.

After that, if your dog catches kennel cough, remember that it's rarely life-threatening. Like treating a child with a cold, you should monitor the dog's symptoms and behavior for anything abnormal. And when in doubt, call the vet.

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  • Dunn Jr., T.J. "Vaccinating for kennel cough." Dog World. April 2005.
  • "Kennel Cough Can Be Tough On Dogs." U.S. Federal News Service. Aug. 21, 2008.
  • "Kennel Cough." City of Boston Animal Care & Control. (Jan. 5, 2009)http://www.cityofboston.gov/animalcontrol/kennelcough.asp
  • "Kennel Cough." Dog World. February 2003.
  • Puotinen, C.J. "The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care." McGraw-Hill Professional. 2000. (Jan. 5, 2008)http://books.google.com/books?id=4lJ_3WXhVfgC