Kennel cough is often seen by dog lovers and pet professionals as an annoying, yet mostly harmless illness that plagues dogs with an active, social life style. The common name was given to Bordatella as the virus tends to pass from canine to canine in facilities in which dogs are kept in close quarters, such as a boarding or grooming facility. However, it is also easily caught and passed on at the dog park and even your local veterinarian’s office.
When it starts
Symptoms tend to occur about 3 or 4 days after exposure to the virus but can take a full week for it to incubate in your dog’s body. The first symptom you may notice is the notorious dry, hacking cough that seems to come suddenly. Your dog may still be active, alert, eating and drinking normally but find it difficult to be energetic, playful and exercise as too much activity will cause him to cough and irritate his throat even more.
Keep your dog calm and relaxed as much as you can, even at the beginning of his symptoms. This means no walks and no exercise. He should be allowed to rest and let his body focus on fighting the virus and any secondary infections instead.
As the illness progresses, his coughing will become harsh and painful. The coughing may sound and look like he has something caught in his throat. He may cough so hard that it leads to dry heaving or even vomiting. He may cough up some white foam which is really just saliva, not the phlegm that sheds the virus. However, throughout the majority of the dog’s symptoms his coughing will be dry and not lead towards the shedding of the virus until much later on.
When it’s serious
According to Shelly Hawkins, the kennel cough disease is typically harmless and only makes your dog feel bad for a couple weeks at the most. However, very young puppies, seniors and dogs with weakened immune systems or in high stress environments can develop more serious problems associated with kennel cough, such as pneumonia.
When kennel cough becomes more serious, you will notice that your dog has a fever, may be lethargic or even turn away food. Your pet is in need of veterinary care at this point and may be prescribed antibiotics to help fight the secondary infections that he had become susceptible to due to his weakened or under developed immune system.
Healthy dogs don’t typically show any more symptoms outside of the hacking cough and will shed the disease in a matter of weeks and will be back to his normal self. He will still eat and maybe even attempt to play, but you should enforce a relaxing and calm environment so that he makes a quick recovery.
The coughing, while irritating to the dog, is actually a good thing. You want your dog to cough out the virus so that he gets it out of his system. However, during the first week, and even longer, if his coughs never produce phlegm he may be given a cough suppressant by your veterinarian so that his throat can have some time to relax and be soothed from the pain that comes with that hacking cough.
Letting kennel cough run its course is the only step that can be taken for the virus itself, and keeping your dog comfortable during the entire event will be appreciated by him. You can provide some comfort in the form of helping to soothe his throat with some natural remedies or ask your vet for advice.