About Kennel Cough in Dogs

What is Kennel Cough and Why are Shelter Dogs so Susceptible?

We take in animals every day, some of whom have never received proper health care and many of whom are already carrying infectious diseases. Kennel cough is the dog equivalent of a human cold and it commonly affects shelter dogs and puppies.  It is generally “species specific,” and therefore isn’t transmissible to humans. Kennel cough is usually a mild disease that can be easily treated.

Without treatment, it can sometimes severely debilitate an animal and even lead to pneumonia. Animals that have been subjected to overcrowding, poor nutrition, extreme heat or cold, fear, or infection with another disease before being admitted to the shelter are more susceptible to kennel cough and may develop more severe symptoms.

Even though dogs are usually vaccinated for kennel cough as soon as they enter the shelter, the vaccine doesn’t provide 100% protection, it may take several days to provide protection, and some animals may be infected prior to entering the shelter. 

What are the Signs I Should Watch for?

Dogs and puppies affected with kennel cough often exhibit a hacking or honking cough, sometimes followed by gagging.  Some dogs and pups may have only a runny nose.  Redness around the eyes and discharge from the eye are also common.  Without veterinary care, dogs may become lethargic, run a fever and lose their appetite.

What Should I do if my Dog has these Signs?

Seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Immediately for puppies and adult dogs that stop eating.

What can I do to Help my Dog Recover Quickly?

Follow the vet’s instructions closely. Use all medications exactly as prescribed, even if your dog’s condition seems to have improved. Encourage your dog to rest as much as possible by providing a quiet, warm place. This is not a good time to introduce your dog to family members and other pets in the household or your neighborhood.

Provide food as recommended by your veterinarian and encourage your pet to eat; try warming a high-quality canned food. Gently wipe any discharge from the eyes and nose with a warm, damp towel. Provide lots of love and concern and be patient; your new dog will be ready to join in your normal family activities soon.   

Dog nose

Elucidate, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons