Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough is a colloquial term for a highly contagious upper respiratory tract infection in dogs that causes a dry, hacking cough that lasts for 1-3 weeks when left untreated, if the dog is otherwise healthy.

The veterinary term for this condition is ‘infectious tracheobronchitis’ as it effects the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (large air passages in the lungs). It is rife in Bali, due to the large numbers of street dogs and infrequency of vaccination.

Sometimes changes in the environment will cause dogs to develop a harsh, throaty cough. Owners often get the impression that their dog has 'got something stuck in his throat'. This is very common when a new pet is obtained, be it from an individual, shelter, market or pet shop. Kennel cough can also be associated with vacations away from home, weather changes, boarding, or even a visit to the groomer. When away from home, many dogs often do a lot of barking which can cause irritation in the throat, making it more susceptible to bronchitis.

The normal healthy body is very resistant to infection, but changes resulting in any form of stress (such as barking) can lower the body’s resistance to disease, allowing bronchitis to develop.

The most common sign of kennel cough is a harsh, dry cough that is often followed by gagging and coughing up foamy mucus. Otherwise, the dog appears alert and generally healthy. The disease is very contagious among dogs, but it does not affect people and is usually self-limiting. This means that, unless complications (such as pneumonia) occur, the signs usually disappear in 1-3 weeks.

Antibiotics and/or other supportive treatments can help decrease the clinical signs and length of illness, so we recommend booking a consultation. Exercise stimulates coughing and should be severely restricted, also pressure on the neck from collars and leashes may stimulate coughing so walks should be avoided until the cough is gone. Also it is irresponsible to allow your dog to come into contact with other dogs whilst it is still contagious.

Although kennel cough can be caused by a number of different pathogens, fortunately, there is a vaccine available for one of the major ones, the highly contagious Bordetella bronchiseptica. This is usually administered via a pipette into the nose and absorbed across the nasal mucosa. Immunity is rapid (within 4 days of vaccination) and an annual booster is required to maintain immunity.

Vaccination is NO GUARANTEE that bronchitis will not develop, but it does provide some protection. With some Kennel Cough vaccines, about 5% of dogs getting the vaccine will actually get a very mild version of the disease from the vaccine itself, but this usually disappears in a few days.

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