Canine kennel cough is a highly contagious disease affecting the respiratory system of dogs. It is usually caused by a combination of bacteria and viruses. The disease is spread by direct contact with other infected dogs. Kennel cough is also transmissible to cats and rarely to people. In humans, the symptoms are similar to those of a cold or Bronchitis. The best prevention is vaccination which is “intranasal” and is flushed up into the nostrils. Dogs that are often in close proximity to other dogs should receive the vaccine at six-month intervals.
* The major sign is a dry, hacking cough. Owners may suspect that the dog either got something caught in his throat or is trying to vomit. The cough may be accompanied by retching and gagging; otherwise most dogs appear healthy and alert.
* Putting pressure on the throat usually elicits coughing in these dogs. Using a harness instead of a collar and leash avoids further irritation to the throat and promotes healing.
* Direct contact with other infected dogs is the primary means of transmission. Dogs in kennels, those at dog shows and otherwise exposed to dogs are at highest risk.
* The primary agent responsible is a bacteria called Bordetella bronchioseptica, which invades the airways.
* Other bacteria and viruses including the canine parainfluenza virus may also be involved.
WHAT YOU AND YOUR VET CAN DO
Most cases spontaneously resolve in two to three weeks with or without therapy. Treatment when given is symptomatic. Cough suppressants reduce tracheal irritation, which helps sore throats heal. Antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections may or may not be indicated.
Herbal cough suppressants like slippery elm are soothing. Use a syringe and give by mouth. One teaspoon is equivalent to 5cc in a syringe.
Ipecacuanha 6c provides relief with constant coughing. Drasera 6c (sundew) may be an effective alternative. Give the pellets twice daily for up to five days, and then twice weekly until the cough is gone.