Dogs can cough for many reasons, from sinus drainage and foreign objects, to bacterial or viral infections. With the COVID-19 threat still lingering, many pet owners worry that their coughing canine companions have contracted the latest coronavirus strain. Take comfort in this recent webinar shared by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), which states that in experimental studies at Colorado State University, dogs showed no virus signs, did not shed live virus, and demonstrated a robust antibody response. Essentially, your dog is highly unlikely to be coughing because of COVID-19. Watch Dr. Man’s blog to see how we are winning the war against COVID-19 at our practice ! 

Despite the almost negligible threat COVID-19 poses for your pooch, kennel cough—or canine infectious tracheobronchitis—is a real risk, and extremely common among the canine population. If your four-legged friend has recently returned from a stay at a doggy daycare, boarding facility, or grooming parlor, and begun hacking and gagging, kennel cough is likely to blame. As the upcoming holiday season approaches—and the threat of boarding-transmitted kennel cough rises—let’s dive into the ins and outs of this coughing condition. 

What causes kennel cough in dogs?

Many different bacterial strains comprise the general term “kennel cough;” however, Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common strain, which is why kennel cough is often referred to as Bordetella. These bacterial particles can spread easily from dog to dog, or to a dog from a contaminated surface, including kennels, food and water dishes, bedding, and leashes. Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital’s Dr. Man explains kennel cough more in-depth in his video blog—check it out here.  

How can my dog get kennel cough?

Healthy dogs can contract kennel cough by being near a coughing dog, or by coming in contact with a surface contaminated with a sick dog’s respiratory secretions. Dogs most commonly pick up kennel cough from boarding facilities, daycares, dog parks, or other common canine gathering areas. 

What other diseases can cause coughing in dogs?

In addition to kennel cough, many conditions can cause your dog to cough and hack. To verify that your dog’s coughing is truly caused by a kennel cough infection requires a thorough physical exam, a detailed history, and potentially a diagnostic workup by our team. Dr. Man will rule out various other diseases known for inducing coughing, including:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heartworms
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Foxtail or other obstruction in the airway
  • Pneumonia
  • Cancer

Is kennel cough life-threatening for my dog?

Kennel cough may sound horrible as your dog hacks all night long, but the condition is rarely serious, and most dogs recover without treatment. However, secondary infections, like pneumonia, can develop, and some immunocompromised pets can experience a more serious form than healthy dogs. If your pooch is coughing, but still appears bright and alert, has a good appetite, and has no fever, they will likely be over the worst of their kennel cough infection in a few days. But, keep a close eye on your dog to ensure they do not get worse, and become lethargic, febrile, and anorectic, or have difficulty breathing. 

What is kennel cough treatment?

Medications are usually indicated to speed recovery or minimize the severity of kennel cough symptoms. Pets who cannot sleep comfortably may need cough suppressants and most pets require antibiotic therapy to combat infection. 

In addition to pharmaceutical options, you can help your dog recover more quickly from kennel cough with at-home changes. Run a humidifier to prevent dry air from irritating your pet’s already inflamed airway, and use a harness instead of a collar to help minimize irritation on your dog’s throat. 

How can I keep my dog safe from kennel cough?  

Like the human cold, you cannot keep your dog entirely protected from kennel cough, but you can minimize their exposure risk, or the infection severity by:

  • Vaccinating your dog for canine infectious tracheobronchitis, including Bordetella, parainfluenza, distemper, hepatitis, adenovirus and, when warranted, canine influenza
  • Avoiding daycares, boarding facilities, and dog parks that do not require vaccination
  • Washing your hands thoroughly and changing your clothing before petting your dog after being around a coughing dog
  • Never letting your dog share bedding, bowls, or a kennel with a sick dog

With proper precautions and appropriate vaccinations, you can greatly reduce your furry pal’s chance of developing an annoying cough.

Has your canine companion developed a goose-like honk? That may be kennel cough. Contact your Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital team to put a stop to your dog’s coughing.