Canine Kennel Cough & Heart Disease

by Valerie A. Modreski
Only your veterinarian can diagnose heart disease or kennel cough in your dog.

Only your veterinarian can diagnose heart disease or kennel cough in your dog.

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Kennel cough and canine heart disease have no veterinary connection and are diagnosed and treated as separate illnesses. While coughing can be symptomatic of heart problems, kennel cough is an infectious bacterial respiratory condition that is highly contagious.

Most Common Canine Heart Disease

Your dog's cough may be an indication for heart disease, and immediate veterinary attention is essential. The No. 1 heart disease seen in dogs is chronic mitral valvular disease. This form of heart disease is age related and develops when disruption occurs at the base, or leaflets, of the mitral valve. When the mitral valve is functioning normally, the valve forms a tight seal with every heartbeat. This function propels blood from the lungs into the heart, which then pumps the blood out again to the rest of the body. As your dog ages the mitral value undergoes changes called myxomatous. These changes are indicated by a thickening or dilation of the mitral valve leaflets. The valve leaflets become permanently stretched, and your dog's heart cannot pump blood normally.

Highly Contageous Canine Cough

Kennel cough is a multi-organism infectious bronchial disease causing chronic coughing. Infectious organisms that occur randomly with kennel cough include bordetella bronchiseptica, parainfluenza virus, adenovirus type 2, canine distemper virus or canine influenza virus, with bordetella bacteria almost always present. Treatment includes antibiotics of various strengths, depending on complications. For more complicated cases, treatment might also include an inhalant to assist with breathing. Kennel cough can turn into a life-threatening case of pneumonia and should be taken seriously. A pneumonia outbreak is usually seen in dogs with a weakened immune system or otherwise compromised health. Your veterinarian can prescribe a canine cough suppressant to provide comfort for your dog while symptoms subside.

Bordatella: A Kennel Cough Inclusion

Bordetella bronchiseptica is an infectious bacteria that is almost always present with a kennel cough diagnosis. The bordetella pathogen is easily passed from one dog to another, but any contact with this airborne bacteria is equally as contagious. This bronchial disease is most commonly seen in dogs, but cats, rabbits and, in rare cases, humans can carry the disease. Bordetella is usually treated for a week to 10 days with a mild antibiotic. The bordetella vaccine is normally given to puppies during their first year in a series of shots. Annual preventative vaccinations are available for adult dogs and should especially be given prior to a kennel stay or stressful situation such as travel. While treatment is underway, use a harness as opposed to a leash for walks. Try to keep your dog's environment quiet because rest is important while recovering from bordetella.

Long-Term Heart Failure Therapy

If your dog has heart disease, your veterinarian may incorporate a management plan called long-term heart failure therapy. This plan addresses the four stages of canine heart disease. In stage one, the patient has insignificant signs of heart trouble, but no clinical signs. For stage two, the patient has clinical signs occurring during exercise. Stage three, your dog has clinical signs of heart failure during normal activity. Stage four, and severe signs of heart disease are seen even while your dog's at rest. Canine patients in stage four heart disease require emergency care. The earlier stages are addressed with this management plan. Low-sodium foods are essential, so beware of commercial treats that are high in sodium. ACE Inhibitors, omega-3 fatty acids and diuretics are commonly used in a heart management plan. Blood vessel dilators and medication that helps pump the heart are included, with a reduction of exercise.

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