Kennel cough is really more of a symptom than a specific disease. Kennel cough is most commonly attributed to a hacking, painful-sounding cough in dogs, but the source of this cough can be highly variable.
Most commonly the symptoms of kennel cough are caused by a bacterial infection of Bordetella bronchiseptica, though a variety of other bacteria and pathogens can cause the symptoms we describe as kennel cough. Examples can include canine distemper and canine adenovirus.
Whatever the causes, whilst kennel cough both looks and sounds unpleasant, most dogs make a full and rapid recovery. It is those immunocompromised individuals like puppies and older dogs in which kennel cough can flare up, allowing other secondary infections to gain a hold. Here further veterinary care will most likely be required in order to return your pet to full health.
Kennel Cough Transmission
Kennel cough has been so-named because it is highly infectious and can be rapidly passed from one dog to another. This occurs most often in cases where dogs gather together in groups, such as at dog shows or – you guessed it – boarding kennels.
The reason that kennel cough is so infectious is that it is transmitted through the air. As infected dogs cough and sneeze, so particles of the bacteria become airborne and are inhaled by other canines.
This means that there is no need for direct dog-to-dog interaction to occur; a dog can become infected by airborne particles without you ever even seeing the dog responsible.
Kennel Cough Symptoms
Kennel cough is best defined as an infection of the respiratory tract. This infection causes inflammation which leads to the range of symptoms observed in canines. Most commonly this takes the form of a hacking, retching cough which can sound terrible. Other symptoms may be comparable to the human cold and can include running eyes and noses.
In more extreme cases repeated coughing can lead to vomiting. In addition, in dogs with less effective immune systems the pathogen causing the initial problem may allow other less pleasant infections to take hold. In such situations pneumonia or fever may be encountered.
Kennel Cough Treatment
Unlike some other prevalent canine diseases like parvovirus, while kennel cough may sound shocking to dog owners, most animals make a full and rapid recovery. In many cases the infection only lasts a week or two before your pet is back to their original healthy self.
That said, treatment will normally speed up this process and make your dog more comfortable while it is fighting the infection.
On consultation it is normal for veterinary surgeons to offer antibiotics in order to help your dog fight off the infection. In addition to this anti-inflammatories may help to reduce the respiratory discomfort and the subsequent coughing.
Kennel Cough Vaccines
Due to the ease with which kennel cough can be transmitted many dog owners opt to vaccinate their pets. Doing so will build up resistance which can be highly effective.
In many cases when transporting your dog abroad it will be necessary to undergo kennel cough vaccinations if your pet has not previously been treated.
Note that due to the range of bacteria which can cause the symptoms of kennel cough the vaccine given will need to be broad-spectrum, so that your dog can establish immunity to the most common disease-causing agents.
Kennel Cough in Humans
One question that gets asked a lot is whether or not humans can catch kennel cough. The answer to this question really depends on a number of factors. Firstly, the disease-causing agent in question has a part to play. For example, studies suggest that the primary bacteria responsible for kennel cough – Bordetella bronchiseptica – can indeed infect humans.
That said, a secondary question is how strong your immune system. Most healthy adults will quickly fight off the disease and will likely suffer no ill effects. It is only the more immuno-compromised individuals – such as babies or the elderly – who may experience some minor symptoms. Even in these cases, however, the immune system – and perhaps a short dose of antibiotics – will normally knock the infection on its head in next to no time.