We at All Creatures on Hoddle are currently seeing a small outbreak of kennel cough and this is our most common question from owners visiting the vet.
Kennel Cough is an extremely contagious infection which causes tracheobronchitis (inflammation of the lining of the airways).
Currently, the kennel cough vaccination provides protection against two highly contagious organisms, Parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bronchiseptica which, if contracted ,would result in very severe forms of the disease.
Similar to the human flu vaccine, the kennel cough vaccine does not provide protection against every single respiratory infection that is out in the environment, and your dog does remain susceptible to these less serious organisms.
It should be noted that your dog does not need to be boarding in kennels to contract the infection, (though this is sometimes the case as dogs are in close proximity and are sometimes more stressed than usual ). The organisms are carried through the air so your dog could contract the infection almost anywhere.
The main symptom of kennel cough, is of course, a persistent cough or honk that sometimes ends with a gagging sound. Some owners think their dog is choking, some describe it as a 'reverse sneeze'.
Unfortunately the more the dog coughs, the more irritated the airway linings become, so the disease tends to linger.
Veterinary treatment involves alleviating the symptoms with cough suppressants and/or anti inflammatories and, as there is often a bacterial element to kennel cough, your vet may also prescribe a course of antibiotics to hasten recovery.
Good home nursing will also speed recovery. Keep your dog rested and warm to reduce the coughing bouts.
Notify your vet if your dog seems worse, becomes listless or refuses to eat as they should then be evaluated for pneumonia especially if they have not had their yearly booster vaccine.
Most dogs will bounce back after a week and should completely recover from coughing in about two to three weeks.
So, remember, while the vaccine cannot guarantee your dog will not get kennel cough, it will definitely spare him from getting a serious bout of the disease and its consequences. It is for this reason we recommend a yearly booster to protect your best friend.