Kennel Cough

Yes it’s that time of year again where Dog Club thoughts turn to the dreaded Kennel Cough. Many are the years when training classes have had to be interrupted due to an outbreak of this annoying & potentially serious disease.

So, what is Kennel Cough then? Well its official title is Canine Infectious Laryngotracheitis, ie an infectious disease of dogs that causes inflammation of the larynx, trachea (the upper respiratory tract) thus causing a well recognised cough.

Kennel Cough (KC) can be caused by a number of different infectious agents – including the viruses Parainfluenza, CAV2, Adenovirus & others, as well as the bacterial infection Bordetella bronchiseptica. These agents can work singly or in combination, with the viruses generally producing lesser symptoms whilst our old friend Bordetella produces the real hacking cough that is typical of KC.

Symptoms are really just as it sounds, with a variety of coughs possible, but typically a very dry hacking cough. Some owners on first encountering this cough think the dog has something stuck in its throat as it can be very severe & persistent. However, generally the dog has very little other signs & still eats, drinks & exercises relatively normally. In sick dogs or the very old or very young, however, secondary complications such as pneumonia can occur, and occasionally this can lead to serious illness. So although it may not appear to be a major disease to most dogs at training classes for instance, it can be potentially serious when there are other more vulnerable dogs at home.

Infection by any of the KC agents is acquired generally by nasal inhalation from direct contact with an infected dog. The difficulty being that dogs can be infectious to others both before they start coughing & also for a period after they stop coughing. So you may never know which dog gave it to yours. Collections of several dogs are great places to acquire the Kennel Cough infection – dog shows, boarding kennels (hence its common name) and of course training classes.

Kennel Cough vaccinations are now available & are widely used. Good boarding kennels will insist that all dogs have been vaccinated in order to minimise the risk of an outbreak, and anyone attending dog shows is well advised to vaccinate. However, as with all vaccines the KC vaccination is not 100% effective, with the Bordetella vaccination being less effective than the viral components. At the very least though a vaccinated dog should have a less severe disease than a non-vaccinated one. Contact your vet for a vaccination appointment.

Taking all the above into consideration therefore it is this Club’s very strict rule that any dog that is coughing should be regarded as a potentially infectious source, whether it has been diagnosed as Kennel Cough or not. Any coughing dog should be kept away from other dogs, including training classes, for as long as it is coughing and for a period of 3 weeks after it stops coughing. This 3 week time period is actually a Kennel Club rule, which everyone has to sign that they will abide by before they can enter a Kennel Club registered dog show.

So, although it may very disappointing for you & your dog to miss classes, please do think of others & keep coughing dogs at home by the fire.

Lorna Ungoed-Thomas

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