With these chilly, wet days, we’re all a little more susceptible to coming down with sniffles and sneezes. It turns out our canine friends aren’t spared from these pesky symptoms either, and we’ve seen a lot more coughing canines coming through our doors recently.
So what’s behind all this coughing? There are a large number of possible causes, but, in some cases, the culprit goes by the fancy name of infectious canine tracheobronchitis, more commonly known as kennel cough.
The “cough” part of the name is self-explanatory due to the characteristic dry, honking cough, sometimes followed by retching. But where does the “kennel” part come from? Due to the highly infectious nature of the disease, it can spread especially rapidly between dogs housed in close quarters, making kennels an ideal setting for an outbreak. In fact, most kennels require dogs to be up-to-date on their kennel cough vaccine before they can be boarded. While being showered by infected cough droplets is a great way to catch the disease, a quick nose-to-nose sniff or even just sharing a water bowl can do the trick.
So if there’s a vaccine, why is kennel cough still a problem? Of course, not all dogs are vaccinated, and even fewer are up-to-date with a vaccine given within the past year. The vaccine is particularly recommended for dogs who frequently interact with other dogs at the dog park or training classes, or who go to a groomer or boarding kennel.
As well, kennel cough is actually caused by a combination of bacteria and viruses. Just like the human cold or flu, these tricky germs can mutate to produce new strains that sometimes aren’t as effectively prevented by our current vaccines. However, vaccination is still helpful even in these cases since the symptoms tend to be shorter-lived and less severe than in an unvaccinated dog.
If you do find yourself to be the not-so-happy owner of a coughing canine, it’s always best to have your dog examined by a veterinarian. While kennel cough is one possible cause, there are many other possibilities including foxtails stuck in the throat, masses pushing on the airways, and heart disease. The correct treatments are just as varied, so it’s very important to figure out the underlying cause.
Luckily, uncomplicated cases of kennel cough will usually resolve on their own with rest. More severe cases may require treatment with cough suppressants or prescription medications. Although thankfully rare, the disease can occasionally progress to pneumonia, requiring hospitalization for more intensive treatment.
We all love watching our canine companions joyfully playing and meeting new friends. Just make sure you’ve taken the precautions to give them the best protection from this pesky infection!
Dr. Amy Hayduk is a veterinarian at the North Peace Veterinary Clinic.