For the lay person who hasn’t ever seen a case of kennel cough, it can sound very scary. For the rest of us, we shrug and say, so what, it’s a common cold in a dog! This isn’t to say that the virus known as kennel cough couldn’t turn into a more serious secondary infection, but what we generally see is a dog with kennel cough will sneeze or cough for a week or so, and recover on it’s own. Something like humans with a cold. The question of whether your dog will get kennel cough once exposed is also similar to humans. Some get the virus, some don’t. Immune compromised dogs are the biggest concern and should avoid exposure to contagious dogs.
The scientific name of kennel cough is tracheobronchitis, which means inflammation of the trachea and bronchi (the major airways).
Kennel cough is actually caused by a complex of viruses, including parainfluenza (included in the DHLPP vaccine) and bordatella (a separate vaccine).
This disease is very contagious, but most healthy dogs will recover on their own without treatment (like recovering from a bad cold or flu).
There is no actual treatment for kennel cough itself, just supportive care. If the cough is very persistent, cough suppressants can be given to stop the cough and therefore stop the irritation caused by the cough, which can lead to a worsening of the cough. Holistically, we have found that an over-the-counter natural product formulated for human Upper Respiratory Virus, called Umcka, by Nature’s Way, can be very effective at lessening the severity and duration of symptoms when taken at onset of symptoms. We have used the cherry flavored product.
In cases where dogs develop secondary symptoms such as lethargy or lack of appetite, have a green or yellow discharge from the nose or lungs or have underlying complications (young, old, stressed, etc.), antibiotics should be given to treat secondary bacterial infections.
Animals should be kept quiet and stress-free while recovering.
The intranasal vaccine may help prevent, or at least decrease the severity of, kennel cough in dogs that are exposed.
The vaccine is not 100% effective. It is recommended to vaccinate dogs that are going to a boarding kennel, are going to be exposed to a lot of dogs such as at a dog daycare, or have chronic respiratory problems.