There has been a lot of kennel cough showing up around Brandon, and while most people have heard of this contagious cough, but there are many misconceptions about it.
Bordetella virus got its "kennel cough" nickname because it spreads quickly and easily in closed quarters where dogs are kept together.
While a boarding kennel offers these conditions, so do many other facilities that play host to a number of dogs, such as doggie daycares, training centres and groomers.
The bordetella virus doesn’t just spread in closed quarters. It is an airborne virus that can spread anywhere that a dog may encounter another dog carrying the virus.
The dogs do not even need to have any physical contact to transmit the virus — like the common cold, it only requires exposure. This means that a dog can pick up the virus while playing at the dog park, or simply spending time in the home of another dog that has the virus.
Fortunately, although highly contagious, kennel cough isn’t as bad as it sounds.
The persistent cough is usually described as a dog sounding like he has "something stuck in this throat" or like a "cat coughing up a hairball." In most cases, the cough does not require any type of treatment — and usually only lasts for a week or two.
A dog that has been exposed to the bordetella virus may not display any symptoms right away. In most cases, the virus rears its head two to 14 days after initial exposure.
Once symptoms appear, they usually consist of a hacking cough, which may or may not be productive. (Seeing some mucus produced from coughing hard is not unusual.)
While there is no treatment for kennel cough, there are ways to deal with the symptoms if they become frustrating. However, please contact your veterinarian before giving your dog anything to treat them.
It is important to remember that kennel cough is airborne and a dog with kennel cough can transmit it easily to other dogs. If your dog has kennel cough, he should be kept away from other dogs — even for a period after, as they can still spread the virus once their symptoms disappear. Most vets recommend waiting at least a week after your dog is symptom-free before exposing him to other dogs.
Dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes can get kennel cough, but the highest risk are the old, the young and those with compromised immune systems.
While kennel cough often passes on its own, there are a few things to watch out for.
A normal case does not involve fever, lethargy or stomach pain. It is normal for a dog to cough up some phlegm, but any sign of blood should be cause for concern.
If the cough becomes progressively worse, or if your dog’s symptoms persist for more than a couple weeks, you should seek veterinary assistance immediately. While kennel cough does not usually require treatment, there is a risk of developing a pneumonia or secondary infection.
Most veterinarians recommend the bordetella vaccine as a means of building up your dog’s resistance to the virus. While the vaccine does not necessarily prevent a dog from getting the cough, it does reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.
There are two types of bordetella vaccinations — one is intranasal and the other is injectable.
The intranasal vaccine is given in a nose drop form, and provides faster immunity than the injectable vaccine.
The injectable vaccination does require a booster shot given four weeks after the initial shot. It is not unusual for dogs to have some kennel-cough-like symptoms after they have been given the vaccine.
While there is no cure for the bordetella virus, the vaccine can certainly assist in boosting your dog’s immunity against this virus.
Dawn Hagman is a freelance bowling columnist for the Brandon Sun.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 19, 2013