Dry Hacking Cough In Dogs – Kennel Cough

What is Kennel Cough?

Infectious bronchitis in dogs, called Kennel Cough, is an exceptionally infectious disease that spreads rapidly from dog to dog when they are in proximity, such as in kennels. Kennel Cough is also called Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) Complex.

If your dog has a hacking cough, you are likely to get concerned about your pet’s health. Kennel Cough is the most likely reason your dog might have a dry hacking cough with a choking or a gagging noise. Kennel Cough produces a harsh hacking cough as if something were stuck in your dog’s throat, followed by gagging, swallowing, or mucus production.

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What causes Kennel Cough or Hacking Cough?

Your dog can catch Kennel Cough by coming in close contact with other infected dogs. If your dog regularly visits places where other dogs come in close contact, like dog parks or grooming places, it increases the chances of getting Kennel Cough.

Kennel Cough, which is characterized by a dry, hacking cough in dogs, is usually caused by a combination of several infections due to the following agents:

  • Canine adenovirus type 2 or CAV-2 is a virus responsible for causing respiratory disease in dogs, which is mainly bronchitis with symptoms of cough. Canine adenovirus type 1 is not associated with Kennel Cough; however, Canine adenovirus type 2 vaccines protect against both CAV-1 and CAV-2. A CAV-2 infection is usually not severe unless accompanied by other secondary infections, which is generally the case in Kennel Cough.
  • Bordetella Bronchiseptica is a bacterium that causes canine respiratory disease in dogs affecting their trachea and bronchi. Together, with other agents, it is the most common reason for causing Kennel Cough. The resulting bacterial infection can cause severe symptoms, and the affected dogs may need antibiotic treatment. Bordetella vaccine is highly recommended to dogs who regularly interact with other dogs in close environments to prevent such infections.
  • Canine Distemper, a virus that affects various parts of the dog’s body depending on the severity of the case. As the disease progresses, it affects multiple systems in the body and hence becomes difficult to treat at later stages. The symptoms start with discharge from the eyes and nose and may be followed by a fever. If the infection becomes severe, the affected dog may have an inflammation of the central nervous system. This disease can be fatal, and hence it is highly recommended for pet dogs to get a canine distemper vaccine.
  • Canine Influenza, also called Dog Flu (caused by H3N8 or H3N2 viruses), is a flu caused by viruses in dogs. The properties of Canine Influenza are like those of Influenza in humans. It spreads when an infected dog barks or sneezes and the virus becomes airborne. Other dogs in the vicinity of an infected dog can quickly catch the Influenza by absorbing the infected airborne droplets. It is one of the common agents found in dogs with Kennel Cough. Canine Influenza can also be prevented by vaccinating your dog.
  • Canine Herpesvirus can be a possible cause of Kennel Cough in dogs. This virus is fatal in incredibly young or newborn puppies and can cause sudden death. It affects mostly puppies as the virus is passed on from the mother during pregnancy or from licking or sniffing the pups. In adult dogs, this virus causes symptoms that are non-specific, but it is a likely cause of hacking cough. Canine Herpesvirus can be prevented by avoiding contact with infected dogs. Unfortunately, a vaccine for this virus is not available in the United States. The vaccine is currently under development in Europe, which can be adopted in other countries if proven effective.
  • Mycoplasmas, a group of bacteria that are present even in many healthy dogs, can cause a respiratory infection called Mycoplasmosis. There are several kinds of mycoplasma bacteria that can cause this condition. Mycoplasmas can colonize and infect the lungs to cause pneumonia. Mycoplasmosis combined with other infections can result in Kennel Cough. No vaccinations are available currently for mycoplasmas.
  • Intestinal virus or Reovirus can cause an infection that limits the absorption of nutrients in the intestines resulting in diarrhea. Immune systems of infected dogs get suppressed, and they quickly get secondary infections, which can result in Kennel Cough. Currently, there are no vaccines available for Reovirus.
  • Canine Respiratory Coronavirus (CRCoV) is a virus that can cause Kennel Cough by itself, but a combination of infections usually causes it. Canine Respiratory Coronavirus has the potential to cause severe respiratory infection in dogs. It is transmitted by close contact through droplets that go airborne when an infected dog sneezes or barks, and it can also spread by dogs sharing toys or visiting places where dogs are kept in close contact. Since there is no vaccine for Canine Respiratory Coronavirus, the only way to prevent an infection is to isolate sick dogs from healthy ones.
  • Canine Parainfluenza virus, a virus that is quite common in dogs with Kennel Cough. The symptoms of Canine Parainfluenza virus are identical to the symptoms of canine influenza virus; however, both these conditions are different and require different treatments. Vaccination is also available to prevent canine parainfluenza.
  • Streptococcus Equi Subspecies Zooepidemicus is a bacterium that can sometimes be found in healthy dogs. However, it can cause severe respiratory infection or hemorrhagic pneumonia. Hence, it can be fatal. It can cause quick death in dogs in extreme cases. Dogs may seem normal one day and can be found dead the next morning. Streptococcus Equi Subspecies Zooepidemicus, together with other pathogens, is known to cause Kennel Cough. No vaccines are currently available for Streptococcus Equi Subspecies Zooepidemicus.
  • Canine Pneumovirus (CnPnV) is a recently identified virus known to be found along with other agents in a Kennel Cough infection. It causes severe symptoms in the upper respiratory area. There is no vaccine for dogs to protect against the Pneumovirus.

What Does Kennel Cough Sound Like?

Kennel Cough sounds like a dry hacking cough as if the dog is choking or has something stuck in the throat. The coughing may or may not produce mucus. It is quite different from sneezing or reverse sneezing in dogs. Dog parents commonly describe choking behavior to their vet, and the vet’s suspicion of Kennel Cough is solidified if the dog is found to have a history of mingling with sick dogs or visiting shared dog facilities. Hence, if you ever notice your dog having a forceful and hacking cough, which is followed by mucus production, gagging, or swallowing, you should urgently visit the vet.

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?

The general incubation period ranges from 2 to 14 days, which means symptoms may start to appear within two days of exposure to infected dogs, or it can take up to 14 days for the symptoms to show. Infected pups or dogs can have a hacking cough and other symptoms for about 1 to 2 weeks or even longer if they are immunocompromised. There is always a chance of the Kennel cough becoming acute and producing severe symptoms; hence, it is imperative to take your dog to the vet even if you notice only mild symptoms after an exposure. Working together with the vet, you can reduce the length of the sickness by early intervention at the first signs of Kennel Cough.

How Is Kennel Cough Diagnosed?

Your dog’s vet can generally make a diagnosis based on the symptoms that you describe, your dog’s history, and a physical examination. Since several infecting agents are involved in Kennel Cough, the vet may order further testing like bloodwork or x-rays to pinpoint the pathogens, which may be required in severe cases. The vet may also make a diagnosis by exclusion to rule out other causes of dry coughs, such as heart disease. For example, constant coughing and difficulty in breathing are symptoms of congestive heart failure as the enlarged heart pushes against the trachea. Fungal infections, parasitic infections, and cancer may also cause cough, and the vet will examine the dog to rule out these possibilities. A new test called PCR, which is short for polymerase chain reaction, may also be used to check the DNA presence of common Kennel Cough causing pathogens.

How Do Dogs Catch Kennel Cough?

Visiting groomers, dog shows, dog races, kennels, and dog parks increases the risk of catching Kennel Cough or a hacking cough. Most of the pathogens that are responsible for Kennel Cough get airborne when an infected dog sneezes, breathes, or barks. These pathogens will then enter the nose or mouth of another dog who is nearby and cause infection. These pathogens can also spread by sharing contaminated objects such as toys as dogs often put these in the mouth while playing with them. If your dog drinks or feeds from a bowl used by an infected dog in a common area like a boarding kennel, he or she can catch the Kennel Cough. Hence, close contact and sharing tight spaces with infected dogs increases the risk of catching Kennel Cough. Not all dogs that encounter infected dogs will catch Kennel Cough, but those with compromised immune systems are more likely to catch it and develop symptoms. Stress can also be a determining factor if a dog will catch Kennel Cough or not. The dogs can stay infectious even after being symptom-free and can keep shedding the pathogens for up to 3 months.

How Is Kennel Cough Treated?

Only a veterinarian can determine the type of treatment for Kennel Cough as it depends on various factors as the agents responsible for Kennel Cough, the severity of the infection as seen from symptoms, the strength of the dog’s immune system, and the age of the dog. The vet may prescribe a couple of weeks of rest in less severe cases of Kennel Cough. Usually, antibiotics are also prescribed to prevent or cure a secondary infection as multiple infections may be present in most cases of Kennel Cough. It is essential to isolate the sick and infected dogs from healthy ones if you have multiple dogs in your household. However, it is highly likely that all the dogs have been exposed to Kennel Cough, and all of them may or may not show signs and symptoms of a Kennel Cough infection. Putting a dog collar on a dog infected with Kennel Cough will make it difficult for the dog as the collar may trigger more cough by causing irritation to the windpipe, also called trachea. The trachea is a tube that connects the dog’s throat to the lungs. Using a harness instead of a collar may be easier on your dog when he or she is affected with Kennel Cough. Supportive care forms the backbone of treatment, and you can help your dog the most by providing rest, nutrition, hydration, and a stress-free environment. Severe cases of Kennel Cough may need hospitalization along with intravenous fluids.

How To Prevent Kennel Cough?

Clean Environment

Taking precaution is always better than getting treatment for an infection. Since Kennel Cough is spread by close contact, you can decrease the chances of getting your dog catching it by keeping him or her away from sick dogs. Avoiding places frequented by many dogs can also be beneficial in preventing Kennel Cough. If your dog visits groomers, make sure you make him or her visit the ones who keep their grooming areas clean and sanitized. Cleaning and sanitation in areas frequented by dogs are of utmost importance in containing the spread of illnesses. Knowing where to take your dog for outdoor activities, especially the places with the least contact with other dogs, is vital in keeping Kennel Cough at bay.

Vaccinations And Immunity

Keeping your dog up to date on vaccinations can play a significant role in preventing Kennel Cough. Vaccinations are available for many pathogens that are known to cause Kennel Cough. However, there are several pathogens for which vaccinations are not available. Keeping your dog’s immune system strong reduces the risk of catching many illnesses, including Kennel Cough, and gives them a fighting chance if they do catch it; plus, the dog will be in excellent health overall. Vaccination, however, is not effective in treating a dog already affected with Kennel Cough.

Which Vaccinations Are Available For Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough or Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) Complex is an infection caused by a group of agents; however, vaccines are available for a variety of those agents.

Vaccines Are Available For The Following Agents Responsible For Kennel Cough:

  • Canine adenovirus type 2 or CAV-2
  • Bordetella Bronchiseptica
  • Canine Distemper
  • Canine Influenza or
  • Dog Flu
  • Canine Parainfluenza virus

Injectable Vaccines:

Injectable vaccines are more suitable for dogs who are aggressive and may bite the person administering the vaccine through the nasal route.
A combination vaccine comprised of attenuated strains of Canine Adenovirus Type 2 (CAV-2), Canine Distemper, Canine Parainfluenza virus, and Canine Parvovirus (Canine Parvovirus is not related to Kennel Cough) is given as one injectable dose. The vaccine can be injected subcutaneously behind the neck or behind the front leg of dogs. It can also be administered intramuscularly by injecting it in the hind limb of dogs. The number of doses varies upon the age of the dogs, and the vet can determine the amount and frequency of the vaccines. Puppies that are younger than nine weeks are administered a minimum of 3 doses at an interval of about one month. Older puppies and dogs are given a minimum of 2 doses at an interval of about one month. Larger breeds of dogs are not administered with this vaccine until they are at least four months old.
Bordetella Bronchiseptica vaccine can be administered by injection to puppies who are 6 to 8 weeks of age. They are then administered a booster dose about four weeks from the initial dose, around the 10th or the 12th week. If adult dogs are given an injected vaccine for Bordetella Bronchiseptica, it is given twice with a gap of 2 to 4 weeks. This vaccine is a prerequisite if you plan to place your dog in a boarding facility or a daycare.
Canine Influenza or Dog Flu vaccine can be given via an injection when dogs are at least seven weeks old. It protects against both strains of the Canine Influenza virus (H3N8 and H3N2). It is administered in two batches, which are 2 to 4 weeks apart.

Intranasal Vaccines:

Bordetella Bronchiseptica vaccine can also be administered via the intranasal route. Adult dogs are given one dose every six months or 12 months. Young puppies can be given a nasal dose of Bordetella Bronchiseptica vaccine at the age of 3 weeks, followed by a second dose after 2 to 4 weeks. Puppies older than 16 weeks are given one dose of the nasal Bordetella Bronchiseptica vaccine.
Canine Influenza or Dog Flu vaccine can also be administered as a nasal spray given to dogs who are at least seven weeks old. The vaccine is given in two doses, with the second dose given after 2 to 4 weeks from the first dose.

Which Vaccinations Are Not Available For Kennel Cough?

Vaccinations are not available for the following agents that are known to cause Kennel Cough or Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) Complex:

  • Canine Herpesvirus
  • Mycoplasmas
  • Intestinal virus or
  • Reovirus
  • Canine Respiratory Coronavirus (CRoV)
  • Streptococcus Equi Subspecies Zooepidemicus
  • Canine Pneumovirus (CnPnV)

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