If one dog in your household comes down with kennel cough, it's likely that other canine residents will pick up this contagious disease. Fortunately, most dogs get over their bout with kennel cough within a week, with a honking, raspy cough the only sign of illness. Some dogs do develop complications, and more serious respiratory issues ensue. Prevention via vaccination is worth a pound of cure, but ways to control its spread exist.
While different agents can cause kennel cough, the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common culprit. Your veterinarian can administer an annual intranasal Bordetella vaccine. It's not 100 percent effective, but helps limit the cough's severity if your dog is exposed. Keeping your dog up to date on his combined canine parainfluenza, distemper and adenovirus vaccinations also helps prevent kennel cough resulting from certain viruses.
Many dogs don't require medication for kennel cough relief, but it's always a good idea to take a honking canine to the vet. Your veterinarian might recommend cough suppressants for cough control. She might advise you to run humidifiers in your house to ease your dog's breathing passages, or take him into the bathroom while you take a shower for a similar effect. In some cases, your vet might prescribe antibiotics for prevention of secondary infections. Dogs with severe coughing might receive steroids for inflammation reduction.
Routine disinfecting can eradicate Bordetella and other pathogens responsible for kennel cough. Plain old bleach works well, as it is one of the few disinfectants that kills the canine adenovirus. Mix 1 ounce of bleach to 32 ounces of water for cleaning and disinfecting. Careful attention to cleaning extends to people. If you pet a dog suffering from kennel cough, wash your hands immediately. Even if you separate a dog with kennel cough from asymptomatic canines in your household, you can transmit the bacteria via your hands.
If your dog comes down with kennel cough, keep him away from other canines for at least two weeks. That means no trips to the dog park, doggie day care or visits with puppy friends. When you take him out for brief constitutionals, put a harness on him rather attaching the leash to his collar. This prevents him from tugging at the leash and stressing the trachea. If you have multiple dogs, keep all of them away from strange canines, even if the others are asymptomatic. If one of your dogs is coughing, you can try quarantining him at home, away from the others. If possible, keep him in an area at least 20 feet away from the healthy dogs.
- PetInformed: Veterinary Advice Online -- Kennel Cough in Dogs
- Petfinder: Kennel Cough
- Koret Shelter Medicine: Preventing the Spread of Kennel Cough Without a Quaratine Section
- Oregon Veterinary Medical Association: Kennel Cough -- Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC)
- Merck Veterinary Manual: Tracheobronchitis in Small Animals
- Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images