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Dog Diseases – What You Should Know About Kennel Cough

As a Respiratory Therapist, I take care of people’s breathing.  This is a gross understatement, so I hope my fellow RT readers forgive me, but when the subject of vaccinations for kennel cough came up with Titan, I got very curious about pups and the type of respiratory diseases that may affect them.  This weekend my family and I will embark on yet another staycation – this time to Bobcaygeon (remember the Tragically Hip song?).  Unfortunately, where we are going there are no pets allowed so Titan will enjoy a vacation himself at a great nearby pet retreat.  Granted, due to his loyal nature and his need to be with his master and mistress, he may see it as more of a heartbreaking distancing rather than a social getaway.  Because he will be with other pups, it is a requirement that proof be shown regarding your dog’s vaccination history.   This is when we decided to check if kennel cough was needed.

A Bit About Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis and it is most commonly a bug that is picked up at doggy daycare, kennels, dog parks and training groups; basically where a large group of pups get together.  This is exactly like catching cold or flu from your child who got sick from some other child at daycare or school.  Fortunately, humans can’s catch kennel cough, so that’s one less dependent you can get sick from.  We get sick with the cold or flu by inhaling the germ, touching a contaminated surface then touching your face and other close contact where transmission is possible.  For pups, this means touching noses, or eating and drinking out of contaminated food and water bowls.  Stopping the cycle of transmission is key.  For us, this usually means lots of hand-washing and no kissy- kissy with affected people, and pups are not any different.  You wouldn’t lick the spoon of someone with a cold, so make sure your pup(s) are not drinking out of each other’s, or another sick pup’s, bowl.

How Do I Know if My Dog Has Kennel Cough?

We may not look alike or have the same preferences in where we pee, but humans and mammals basically have the same parts. So, it is no surprise that when we are down and out, we are affected in the same way.   The typical signs and symptoms you may have to suffer through is similar to that of your furry friend; an annoying cough (although it will sound like a honk coming from your dog), runny nose, sneezing, lethargy, loss of appetite and low fever.

How Do We Make It Better?

When you’re down and out and there’s no cure we tend to settle for whatever eases the symptoms along with a lot of rest and fluids. The doctor might order some extra meds to ease and sooth that nasty cough, and to my surprise, doggie diseases are treated in much the same way.   If a couple of weeks of R and R are not cutting it, inhaled medications such as antibiotics and bronchodilators (“puffers”) should do the trick.  Your four-legged patient will still need to meander outside for the basic necessities, so when you walk him, make sure to use a harness versus a collar.  Tugging at the throat when you already have a cough can be, well, annoying.

The Prevention Intervention

It’s comforting to know that for many illnesses there is a treatment or cure, but who wants to be sick in the first place?  Not I, and surly not your peppy pup!  There is a vaccine that can help prevent you bestie from getting sick against bordetella bacterium (yes, the little punk bug has a name!)which is the most common bug that causes kennel cough.  However there’s a list of little buggers that can cause kennel cough that the vaccine won’t protect against.   Our flu vaccine is based on a best guess every year of the common viral strains that have been circulating the globe, however,  if you catch a strain not in the vaccine, you may still get sick.   Same difference; the bordetella vaccine will only help if your pup gets sick with bordatella.  If your dog gets sick and already had the vaccine, his symptoms may be caused by any of the following: bacterial bordetella bronchiseptica, canine adeovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus, canine respiratory coronavirus, or mycoplasmas.

Be sure to take your dog to the vet if you see he’s down and out with the cough and sniffles.

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