Kennel cough prevalent in dogs

Kennel cough has recently spread throughout New Zealand dogs and almost all of the vets are seeing more dogs with kennel cough symptoms than seen in the previous years. It is upper respiratory infection of dogs caused by bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica and viruses like canine influenza, canine parainfluenza virus and canine adenovirus.

Kennel cough is highly contagious and can easily be spread from one dog to another mostly while socialising. When dogs cough, the bacteria and viruses become airborne and can quickly spread to other animals. It can also be transmitted by sharing food or water bowls or toys. Many dogs get it from being in dog kennels and shelters, which is where the illness gets its name. They become infected by being around other dogs who have the cough. Cold temperature, stress, exposure to dust or pollens, poor ventilation or crowded conditions predispose dogs to the infection.

Incubation period can be 2 - 14 days which mean dogs take a few days to show symptoms after contacting the infection.

Symptoms may include honking cough which sounds like something is stuck in their throat (goose honk), partial loss of appetite, lethargy, nasal discharge and coughing up phlegm.

Most of the cases improve on their own in 1-3 weeks but cases showing pronounced symptoms need veterinary intervention and often an antibiotic course to target the bacteria.

Puppy vaccinations and the dog annual booster vaccinations normally provide immunity against the viruses which lead to kennel cough infection.

Vets can also provide a vaccination against the main bacterial cause, Bordetella in the form of oral drops or nasal spray or injections. Many boarding kennels require dogs to have the vaccination before their stay.

As kennel cough has a wide range of causes and strains, the vaccine cannot guarantee protection for your dog but vaccinated dogs get relatively milder form of kennel cough and seem to recover faster if they get infected.

If you think your dog has the illness, keep it away from other dogs to limit the spread.

Dr Gary Duggal BVSc, Huapai Vet Clinic - phone 09 412 2223.