Understanding Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough

You may not have heard of Bordetella, but there’s a good chance you have heard of kennel cough. Both refer to an extremely contagious illness that dogs and cats can transmit to each other at boarding kennels, dog parks, or any other place where animals are in close quarters. Your pet can also pick it up through contact with sneeze droplets, saliva, or other types of discharge from another infected animal.

A bacterium called Bordetella Bronchoseptica combined with the canine parainfluenza virus are the primary causes of illness in dogs. When only one of these factors causes symptoms, veterinarians refer to it as Bordetellosis.
How to Recognize Kennel Cough
The first thing you’re likely to notice in your dog is a dry, hacking cough. It might sound like he just has something stuck in his throat at first. The cough is caused by micro-organisms attached to your dog or cat’s respiratory cells. With cats, the earliest and most common symptoms of Bordetella are sneezing and nasal discharge. The virus weakens your pet’s immune system so he can’t fight off the effects of Bordetella. A prolonged, untreated case can cause significant respiratory distress for both cats and dogs.
It typically takes two to 14 days for dogs and cats to develop and display symptoms of Bordetella. The virus can remain in their body for up to three weeks. As mentioned above, it can spread quickly among unvaccinated pets in places like boarding kennels. For this reason, professional boarding facilities require proof of Bordetella vaccination. We encourage you to make sure your pet’s vaccines are up-to-date before boarding or going to the dog park.
Treating the Bordetella Virus
Uncomplicated cases of kennel cough normally revolve on their own within about two weeks, much like the common cold in people. Although we don’t normally prescribe antibiotics at this stage, we may be able to provide an over-the-counter medication to help your pet feel more comfortable.
Dogs and cats can develop bronchitis or pneumonia when they acquire a serious case of Bordetella. The best treatment at this point is an antibiotic or a bronchodilator. You should monitor your pet closely during treatment and contact us immediately is she seems worse or develops any new complications. If your pet has regular contact with other pets in a small or enclosed space, please speak to our staff about the most appropriate Bordetella vaccine schedule.
Photo Credit: igorr1 / Getty Images

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