You've adopted a dog from the pound. You've given him the gift of love and a new home. He may have inadvertently brought an unwanted gift to his new abode -- the highly contagious kennel cough. It's not uncommon for dogs to pick up this infection from a shelter. If you have other dogs, vaccinate them for kennel cough beforehand or keep them separated from the pound puppy for at least two weeks.
Your pound puppy appears bright-eyed and bushy tailed, except for making an odd honking sound. That hacking, honking noise is the classic sign of kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis. Usually, the disease runs its course in about a week, but affected dogs continue shedding the bacteria for two weeks or more after recovery. For most dogs, kennel cough is the equivalent of a human cold. For some dogs, however, kennel cough develops into serious respiratory illness. Take your dog to the vet if he displays kennel cough symptoms or that of any upper respiratory disease.
Shelters aren't the only canine facilities where kennel cough can lurk. Because it's contagious, dogs can pick it up in any area with large concentrations of canines, including boarding kennels, doggie day care and the local dog park. If your other dogs develop kennel cough after the pound puppy arrives, he's probably the infection vector even if he's asymptomatic. However, don't automatically blame the newcomer if your other canines spent time around strange dogs, including dog shows or obedience classes. The disease spreads not only through direct contact. Transmission through the air, especially in areas with poor ventilation, is common.
Ask shelter personnel if your new dog has already received a vaccination. Some shelters vaccinate routinely, as their facilities are so vulnerable to the condition. Regardless, take your current dogs to the vet for a kennel cough vaccination unless you know prior inoculations are up-to-date. Vaccines aren't 100 percent effective, but they generally result in milder cases for exposed dogs. Kennel cough doesn't result from just one agent, but the bordatella bacteria is the most common, so that's a primary vaccine for the disease. If your dog does come down with kennel cough, your vet might prescribe cough suppressants or antibiotics.
If any of your dogs develop kennel cough, try to keep the coughing canine away from the others. That's not always possible, but keep your entire crew away from other dogs for at least two weeks, even if not all of them develop symptoms. Besides no trips to the dog park, that means no visits with canine friends.
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