Pet Health

Canine Cough

With the cooler weather well and truly here -  we expect to see more cases of canine (or kennel) cough. If your dog suddenly develops a hacking, persistent dry cough it is possible he/she has this common infectious disease. In most cases, the disease is easily treated with rest, antibiotics and/or cough medication; but in a few instances it can became a serious condition, especially in unvaccinated dogs. So, if your dog starts coughing, ensure you take him/her for a vet check, keep him/her isolated from other dogs to reduce potential transmission and ensure he/she is up to date with vaccinations.

Canine cough is an infectious inflammatory condition of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (lung canals) of dogs. It is a very common cause of sudden coughing fits in otherwise well dogs. The disease usually results from the action of multiple infectious microorganisms (bacteria and virus) on compromised airways. Some environmental factors can predispose to the disease by either damaging the natural airway defences or by facilitating the propagation of the virus and bacteria. Some examples are:

Stress (e.g boarding, moving);
Cold temperatures;
Crowded environments (e.g. kennels, dog daycare);
Poor ventilation;
Smoke/dust exposure.

Canine cough is very contagious. The causative virus and bacteria can travel through aerosols and be inhaled by a susceptible dog or be carried on toys, food bowls, etc. An infected dog can shed the microorganisms to the environment for a couple of months, even in the absence of clinical signs. Hence, when we suspect a dog has canine cough, we always recommend isolating him/her from other dogs for a period of time. We also ensure all the surfaces he/she has been in contact while at the vet clinic are thoroughly disinfected.

Canine cough is usually a self-limiting and mild disease. Most dogs only have a dry hacking cough (sometimes described as “goose” cough), usually exacerbated by exercise or excitement. Sometimes the cough can be followed by a terminal retch, like the dog is trying to “clear up” his throat. Most animals have increased sensitivity when palpated at the trachea (windpipe). A few dogs can be a bit off their food or have mild serous (clear) nasal and eye discharge. In rare cases though, canine cough can be fatal, especially if more aggressive microorganisms are involved, in very young or old patients, in immunocompromised patients, or in unvaccinated dogs. In complicated cases, the disease can progress to pneumonia and the dog can become very sick with fever, difficulty breathing and severe lethargy.

Fortunately, we have vaccines available against the most common microorganisms causing kennel cough (the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica, the Parainfluenza virus, the Canine Adenovirus and the canine Distemper virus). These vaccines are part of the routine immunisation protocol used at our clinics and can protect dogs from an early age. Some owners are surprised that their dog still gets canine cough despite being vaccinated. This happens because the dog can be infected by other microorganisms not covered by the vaccines or by different strains of virus. Regardless, most cases of kennel cough in vaccinated dogs are very mild, of shorter duration (usually lasting a couple of weeks) and do not progress to severe pneumonia like in unvaccinated dogs. In most dogs, rest and a short course of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and/or anti-cough medication is all is needed to treat the disease.

Posted in: Pet Health at 17 July 19