Though their biology is different, your pets are just as susceptible to common infections as you are. The difference is that they can’t seek medical help or fight sickness on their own. When they aren’t feeling well, you should observe certain behaviors that indicate something is wrong. In the case of kennel cough, your vet can help you to alleviate the symptoms and prevent it from happening to your dog or cat again.
What is kennel cough?
Kennel cough is an umbrella term for any respiratory infection that causes your pet’s voice box and windpipe to become inflamed. It’s a form of bronchitis and is similar to the chest colds we humans get each winter. In most cases, it isn’t too serious and will often go away on its own. However, it is highly contagious to other dogs and small animals, like puppies and kittens, and any pet with preexisting health conditions. For them, kennel cough can be quite serious.
If you think your dog or cat may have kennel cough, make an appointment with your local veterinarian just to be safe. But if you want to prevent kennel cough, vaccination is the best way to go.
What causes kennel cough?
Contrary to the name, kennel cough isn’t necessarily caused by kenneling your pet. Kennel cough can be either viral or bacterial, which means it can spread between pets through direct contact or through the air. The close quarters in a kennel can spread the disease quickly, but that’s not the only place your pet can become infected. Again, think of it like a chest cold—you could become infected at any time and it’s difficult to pinpoint the origin.
One of the most common causes of kennel cough is a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica, which infects your pet’s respiratory system and causes inflammation in the voice box and windpipe. B. bronchiseptica is highly contagious, easily transmitted through direct contact or the air, and resistant to destruction in the environment. The best way to protect your pet from B. bronchiseptica is vaccination—especially if you often bring your furry friend to kennels, groomers, pet shows, pet sporting events, or other places where they will come into contact with many other animals.
What are kennel cough symptoms?
The most common symptoms of kennel cough in dogs and cats are:
- A persistent dry cough—often sounds like “honking”
- Sneezing (especially in cats)
- Decreased appetite
- Coughing up mucus or white foam
- Nasal discharge
- Watery eyes
- Lethargy (sleepiness, decreased energy)
If your pet is displaying any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian. The same bacteria that causes kennel cough can cause pneumonia and other serious complications. The more quickly you identify what’s going on, the better you can take care of your pet and get them back to health.
How do I prevent and treat kennel cough?
If you suspect your pet has kennel cough, immediately isolate them from all other animals to prevent spreading the infection. Then contact your veterinarian.
Kennel cough is generally treated with antibiotics to target the B. bronchiseptica bacteria, plus medications to help your pet stop coughing and breathe more easily. You can also keep your pet in a well-humidified area, and use a harness instead of a collar while walking them to minimize the strain on their throat. In most cases, your pet will recover from kennel cough within three weeks.
However, the best way to treat kennel cough is to prevent it. Vaccinations can be administered by your vet orally, nasally, or with an injection. The vaccine targets viruses and bacteria known to cause kennel cough, such as parainfluenza and B. bronchiseptica. These days, many kennels and groomers require your pet to be vaccinated against kennel cough before taking them.
If you have any questions, please contact our team at Noah’s Ark to determine whether the kennel cough vaccination is right for your pet!