If your dog starts making the hacking noise known as kennel cough more than two weeks after returning from a boarding facility, it's unlikely he picked up the infection there. He could also be suffering from another type of bronchial disease, so take him to the vet for diagnosis and treatment. Make note of other places your dog has been in the interim, such as a dog park or dog show.
While your dog might sound like he's dying after coming down with kennel cough, it's really comparable to a human cold. Formally known as infectious tracheobronchitis, the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica is generally the prime, but not the only, organism causing the symptoms. Kennel cough is quite contagious and easily spreads in places containing large groups of dogs, such as kennels, shelters and grooming facilities. Affected dogs produce that awful cough, often followed by a retching reflex. They're generally fine otherwise -- eating, drinking and playing normally -- although some canines might appear a bit under the weather.
The incubation period for kennel cough ranges from 2 to 14 days, according to the British Journal of Small Animal Practice. Generally, the disease runs its course in a week or two, again similar to a human cold. Unlike a cold, dogs infected with bordetella continue to harbor and shed the bacteria for up to three months after exposure.
Many dogs don't require treatment for kennel cough. Your vet might recommend a cough suppressant so your pal doesn't hack so much. However, in young puppies, old dogs and those with compromised immune systems, kennel cough might progress to bronchitis or pneumonia. If your dog exhibits any signs of disease besides the cough, such as appetite loss, fever or nasal discharge, he needs veterinary attention. Your vet will conduct blood work and might X-ray your dog's chest to make a diagnosis. She might prescribe antibiotics for infection and bronchodilators to ease breathing.
Before boarding your dog, have him vaccinated against bordetella. Many boarding kennels require proof of vaccination before accepting your dog. Your vet can give your dog the vaccine either by injection or intranasally. Have your dog vaccinated at least one week before taking him to the boarding facility. If you frequently board your dog or take him to dog shows or other venues where he comes in contact with many strange dogs, have him vaccinated every six months. Otherwise, an annual booster should suffice.
- Veterinary Partner: Kennel Cough (Infectious Tracheobronchitis)
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: An Overview of Canine Kennel Cough Complex
- Journal of Small Animal Practice: A Field Investigation of Kennel Cough -- Incubation Period and Clinical Signs
- Merck Veterinary Manual: Tracheobronchitis in Small Animals
- Sun Lakes Animal Clinic: Bordetella (Kennel Cough) Vaccination
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images