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Important tips to consider before walking a dog with kennel cough

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Joyful memories that last a lifetime are made with our canine companions. Endless sticks and balls are thrown, and your usual walk around the park gets much more interesting. It’s heartbreaking to see a sick dog that is not in the sprightly mood to chase after a tennis ball. Staying on top of your dog’s wellbeing ensures they remain healthy and happy. Paying attention to any unusual behaviour and medical symptoms are part of it. Kennel Cough is contagious, but safely treatable when diagnosed early. Walking a dog with kennel cough requires more caution. And here’s everything you need to know about the disease and how to care for your pet pooch with the illness.

What is kennel cough?

Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD), also known as Canine Tracheobronchitis or Kennel Cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs (Appel, 1999). It is a generic term used for multiple pathogens, much like the “common cold” in human beings or bovine respiratory disease complex (BRDC) in cattle.

It is caused by a complex of infectious organisms (bacteria and viruses), with Bordetella bronchiseptica, canine parainfluenza virus, and Mycoplasma spp. being the most frequent causative agents. Canine distemper virus, canine herpesvirus, adenoviruses, and reoviruses 1 to 3 may all cause the disease (Ruaux, 2011). Outbreaks associated with CIRDC are reported worldwide.

The infection is not restricted to dogs. Other species like pigs, cats, and rodents can become infected with the disease.

How do dogs catch kennel cough?

Dogs are more likely to develop CIRDC the longer they spend time in group settings. It is commonly contracted in places where multiple dogs congregate, such as dog daycare & boarding facilities, dog parks, training hostels, dog shows, and animal shelters. It spreads through airborne droplets, direct contact (i.e., touching noses), or contaminated surfaces (i.e., drinking or eating from the same water and food bowls). Summer months see a slight increase in infections as there is more kenneling due to holiday travel and more activity in parks.

Is it a fatal illness for dogs?

Kennel cough generally is not fatal. It is effectively treated in most dogs but can be more severe in puppies younger than six months of age, elderly dogs, and immunocompromised dogs. Dogs who develop secondary pneumonia can become very ill. As soon as you notice kennel cough symptoms, you should take your dog to the vet.

The severity of the illness is increased when more than one pathogen is involved or if there are extreme environmental conditions, such as poor ventilation. Dogs asymptomatically infected with Bordetella bronchiseptica are more severely affected by superinfection with CAV-2 than those not carrying the bacterium.

Stress is likely to reduce the immune system’s ability to respond to microbial challenge, so, it is very important to keep your dog relaxed and happy.

Diagnosis of infectious tracheobronchitis is usually made from the characteristic clinical signs and history of recent exposure to other dogs. Antibiotics, cough medicine, and anti-inflammatories are used to treat kennel cough. Anti-inflammatories reduce inflammation in the airway and lower high temperatures. Antibiotics are mostly prescribed for younger and older dogs as a preventive measure against secondary infection. Antibiotic selection should be ideally guided by culture and sensitivity results from airway lavage fluids. Steam inhalation is also shown to be beneficial to alleviate symptoms. Keep them in well-humidified room at home.

Healthy dogs recover from kennel cough after resting for a week or two. Clearance of the pathogens will take about 3 weeks after infection. Dogs are resistant to reinfections.

What are the symptoms of kennel cough?

Infected dogs have an acute onset of a harsh, paroxysmal “goose honk” cough. It can get worse at night. Other clinical signs include sneezing, runny nose, loss of appetite, fever, lethargy, and depression. Inflammation and oedema of the larynx, pharynx, and trachea occur as well. It can cause a sore throat.

The dry hacking cough is the most obvious symptom of kennel cough, and it gets worse with exercise, excitement, and/or pressing on the neck region.

It is also important to remember canine distemper virus and canine influenza virus both have initial symptoms nearly identical to kennel cough. Other conditions, such as collapsing trachea, bronchitis, asthma, and even heart disease, cause coughing.

Is kennel cough contagious to other dogs and pets?

Kennel cough is contagious to dogs, especially unvaccinated dogs. It is also transmissible to other species like cats and pigs. Dogs, too, can catch the disease from an infected cat. However, evidence of transfer to other species is rare. Cats who are vaccinated against bordetella are much more protected from the disease. Ferrets have sensitive respiratory systems; therefore, they can catch kennel cough from dogs or cats. When there is a dog with kennel cough in your home, shelter, or clinic, they should be kept apart from other pets and animals.

Most of the viruses and bacteria that cause kennel cough cannot be passed on to humans. However, the main bacterium (Bordetella bronchiseptica) that causes the disease can infect humans, but only those with a weakened immune system. Pets-to-human transmission is extremely rare, and if you have any concerns regarding infection, contact your doctor immediately.

Kennel cough vaccine is the best protection we have for the disease. The vaccine lasts 12 months and should be repeated every year. Like any vaccine, it doesn’t provide 100% protection against the disease. However, it reduces the chance of getting infected and the severity of symptoms. Speak to your vet about giving your dog the vaccine if they haven’t been vaccinated against the disease yet.

Can you walk a dog if they have kennel cough?

Rest and TLC are the best cures for the disease, apart from medication. If the symptoms are severe, they should rest indoors. Although the infection usually clears within 3 weeks, it takes about 3 months for the bronchial tree to completely clear. Between this time, your pet needs their exercise and general health practices. If the vet advises quarantine for your dog, keep your dog away from social environments for 14 days.

If your dog has mild symptoms, it is perfectly alright to resume walking after a period of rest. This is where your vet comes in for further guidance. Outdoor air can be beneficial for dogs with kennel cough if it is not too cold. Poor ventilation can exacerbate symptoms. Exposure to dust and cigarette smoke should also be avoided.

How to walk dogs with kennel cough

  • First of all, make sure the vet gives you the go ahead.
  • Then, swap the collar for a harness. Collars can put pressure on the cervical trachea (windpipe), worsening the cough. A harness is more appropriate.
  • You can also include a dog jacket to keep them warm, depending on the weather outside. Staying warm is important for recovery.
  • Humid conditions are the best for walking outside.
  • A dog with kennel cough should not go to parks or areas where there are other dogs and pets. Do not take an infected dog for walks with other dogs.
  • Avoid dust, smoke, and rain.
  • At the early stages of the infection, especially when they should be isolated, consider walking them in the garden, private road, byways, and land not open to the public.
  • Dog walkers should change clothes after handling an infected dog. Wearing disposable gloves also helps to avoid transmitting the disease to a healthy dog.

How often should you walk a dog with kennel cough?

10-20 minutes a day is a sufficient amount of time, depending on your dog’s stamina, symptoms, and age. It will give them a sufficient cardio workout to keep them healthy. Puppies and senior dogs benefit from shorter walks. If you notice signs of tiredness, breathlessness, or worsening cough, cut the walk short. When your dog is sick, they lack the energy they usually have. And, they get tired more quickly. Some Vitamin D from the sun and a bit of exercise are all they need.

Our pets do rely on us to look after them and their health. And, we must do everything we can to protect them against infectious diseases. As soon as you notice signs of kennel cough in your dog, take them to the vet for treatment and advice. And, as they recover, follow best practices to keep them safe, as well as other pets. GoWalkies help you keep your dog healthy and happy by connecting you with dog walkers in your area when you are not able to walk your dog. It is completely secure, and you get real-time updates from walkers on the walks they are on.