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What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a flu-like disease that generally tends to affect dogs, but may affect other pets such as rabbits, cats, birds etc. Kennel cough is characterized by severe hacking and coughing. This can be extremely distressing for the pet as well as very annoying for the pet owner. It is a common disease that is contagious in nature.

Kennel cough is not a serious illness and tends to disappear within a few weeks. However, it is essential to visit a vet if your pet shows any signs of kennel cough because it can even be an indication of several underlying medical conditions such as periodontal disease, pneumonia, heartworm infection, heart disease, allergies, chest infections, throat growths, parasites and  other irritations.

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Symptoms of kennel cough

Some of the symptoms of kennel cough in pets are listed below:

  • Coughing: Kennel cough is characterized by coughing that generally tends to sound like honking. The cough is persistent and dry with a hacking sound which conveys that the pet may vomit. The number of coughs range from a few coughs to many and the final cough in the series may sound and look like the pet is trying to hack out something from the mouth. The cough is the most common symptom of kennel cough in pets and can result in a lot of discomfort and body strain.
  • Exercise:  Most pets, especially dogs tend to be very active even when they are afflicted with kennel cough. However, the cough has a tendency to get worse after every session of outdoor or indoor physical activity or exercise. Hence it is essential for pet owners to restrain the pets from any exercise when they are affected by kennel cough.
  • Hacking up phlegm and frothy liquid: When humans are affected with flu they hack up thick sputum. Similarly, pets afflicted with kennel cough hack up phlegm. There may be instances when the pet may throw up or vomit liquids and foam. When pets affected with kennel cough end up eating their food or drinking water a little too quickly, they may vomit the food as well as liquids that contain phlegm. This is due to the presence of increased irritation of the throat. Some pets that have kennel cough may not vomit, but still face severe discomfort and distress due to an infected and painful throat or respiratory tract.
  • Sickness and depression: Pets, especially dogs tend to stay active and enthusiastic even when they are affected with kennel cough. However, extreme as well as lengthy cases of the disease may tend to wear down the pet, thereby leading to increased tiredness and fatigue. Hence, it is important for the pet owners to monitor cases of kennel cough in their pets. Any sign or symptom that is not a part of their normal behavior, such as increased instances of sickness and depression, warrants a visit to a vet.
  • Some other symptoms of kennel cough in pets include a runny nose, loss in appetite leading to weight loss and increased reddening of the eyes and the areas around the eyes.
  • Kennel cough does not last for very long. However, in some cases it can last for months and hence it is essential for pet owners to treat instances of kennel cough as soon as the symptoms appear. It is also important to remember that kennel cough is contagious and hence care should be taken to prevent exposure of the infected pet to dogs or other pets.

Causes of kennel cough

Kennel cough is caused due to viral and bacterial infections in pets which include the following:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica: It is the main type of bacteria that cause kennel cough in pets. Once the bacteria has entered the pet’s body, it reproduces at a rapid pace. The bacteria causes the immune system of the pets to weaken and break down resulting in sickness. Such a breakdown of the immune system eventually leads to the hacking and chronic cough.
  • Canine adenovirus Type 2 and Canine parainfluenza 3: They are the main type of viruses that cause kennel cough in canines. The adenovirus attaches itself within the very depths of the dog’s lungs. It is also the main virus that transmits colds in dogs or canines. The parainfluenza virus causes infection of the respiratory tract cells, canine distemper as well as severe damage to the trachea.
  • A combination of the above mentioned bacteria and viruses can cause kennel cough in dogs and other pets. Some dogs may not show symptoms of kennel cough but are carriers of the disease and can potentially transfer the disease to other pets with weak immune systems.

Treatment of kennel cough

Different pets respond to kennel cough treatment in different ways. Hence it is important for pet owners to visit a vet to get effective treatment. Some of the methods of kennel cough treatment include:

  • Kennel cough vaccine for the Bordetella bacteria in the form of an injection or an inhalant. It is not definitive way to treat kennel cough. In some cases, the vaccine has been found to trigger cases of kennel cough. Hence it is best left to the discretion of the vet.
  • Antibiotics in pill or liquid form may be prescribed by the vet
  • Cough suppressants to help alleviate the symptoms of cough as well ease the throat pain and irritation. It is best to use such medications on the advice of a vet, instead of purchasing them over the counter.
  • Anti Inflammatory drugs such as terbutaline sulfate may be prescribed for pets that are facing breathing problems. Such drugs open up the respiratory tract making it easier for the pets to breathe.
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