Infectious Canine Cough
Infectious canine cough has a number of different names, including kennel cough, canine cough, and infectious respiratory disease. It also has a number of different causes. Very often, the parainfluenza virus works together with the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica to cause this very contagious disease syndrome. Other bacteria and viruses may be involved as well, but these are the two main culprits. Dogs are exposed in large groups such as at kennels, dog shows, or shelters. One coughing dog can shed virus that spreads rapidly through the group. If you add in secondhand smoke or other fumes, the damaged respiratory tract is even more susceptible to this disease.
Signs You Will See
A dog with kennel cough will do a wonderful imitation of a honking goose. The dry racking cough truly sounds terrible, but often the dog feels quite fine. The cough may last for a week or more, and your dog should be isolated during that time to prevent spread of the organisms. In some cases, the damage to the respiratory tract and its defense mechanisms is quite severe, and a few dogs may go on to develop pneumonia. Dogs with pneumonia cough, run a fever, and may lose their appetite and have a discolored nasal discharge. They are clearly sick, as opposed to the dogs with uncomplicated kennel cough that sound terrible but feel fine.
Treatment and Prevention
Dogs with uncomplicated kennel cough only need minimal treatment. A veterinarian may suggest a cough suppressant and possibly a vaporizer. Dogs with this cough need to be kept quiet and must not be allowed to exercise hard or bark as these activities will irritate the respiratory tract even more. If the dog progresses to pneumonia, more drastic measures are needed. In these cases, the dog will definitely need antibiotics. A few dogs get ill enough to need hospitalization and an oxygen cage. Special treats to encourage eating may be important, too, and extra vitamins are always beneficial. Again, a vaporizer may make the dog more comfortable.
The intranasal vaccine for kennel cough works by stimulating local immunity in the nasal passages. This makes sense, as infectious agents first try to enter the dog's body through these passages. If her defenses can catch and kill them right there, she will not get sick at all. The intranasal vaccine is administered through small amounts that are dripped into the nostrils. Some dogs may sneeze for a day or so after getting an intranasal vaccine.
There are a couple of different vaccination protocols that can be used for kennel cough. The parainfluenza virus is often included in routine combination vaccines. There are also separate vaccines for the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica. One is an intramuscular vaccine, and the other is an intranasal vaccine. You should discuss with your veterinarian whether and how often your dog needs these vaccines.