Wednesday, 2nd May 2012
Kennel Cough: a highly contagious disease of dogs
"Kennel Cough" (or KC) is the common name given to the disease more technically named acute infectious tracheobronchitis. It affects the upper respiratory tract of dogs, causing the symptom most associated with it: a persistent, dry, hacking cough. The dog usually suffers bouts of coughing which result in retching and a discharge being brought up from the throat. This can be so pronounced that dog owners may suspect that the dog has an obstruction like a bone or toy lodged in its throat, or that the dog is actually vomiting. Other signs of KC infection include fever, loss of appetite, lethargy or a discharge from the eyes or nose, but infected dogs often appear as normal, other than the persistent coughing/choking.
KC is caused by contact with a combination of respiratory viruses and bacteria acting together. It is a highly contagious disease, passed on by inhalation of infected airborne droplets, so any dog that comes in close, not necessarily direct, contact with other dogs is at risk. It is frequently a problem encountered with dogs that are mixed together in close confinement such as in dog sanctuaries, kennels and pounds. Dogs that are brought to shows, obedience classes and boarding kennels will have increased risk of infection.
Any dog can get KC, and I have often seen cases in dogs that have never been in kennels, or even mixed regularly with other dogs, as it can be easily passed on with minimal contact. Short contact with an infection-shedding dog in a park or on a pathway is sufficient for transmission.
If your dog shows symptoms like those I have described which are associated with KC, a trip to the vet for an examination is necessary to establish the correct diagnosis, and to prescribe appropriate treatment. Although it is unusual for KC to be life-threatening, it is a distressing and contagious disease which can cause persistent symptoms and can be stubborn to treat successfully. There have been cases where KC has given rise to more serious health issues, such as congestive heart disease or secondary infections like pneumonia. It is very important not to allow any contact between an infected dog and any other healthy dogs. The very young and the elderly dog will have a higher risk of complications post infection, so should not come in contact with rescue dogs from pounds or shelters.
KC can be prevented by a vaccination given by your vet. It is administered by the intranasal route every year, and effectively prevents the infection when given in conjunction with the normal 7 in 1 vaccination which is initially given to puppies and is also repeated annually. The vaccine can be given to any healthy dog, and your vet will examine each dog individually to ensure they are well enough and suitable for vaccination. KC vaccination should also be given to dogs at least 2 weeks before they go into boarding kennels, which will require a veterinary certificate for verification.
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