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What is Kennel Cough? And How to Avoid It

A few days after a visit to the dog park, you notice your dog acting differently. Something is wrong. He’s got a bad cough. It almost sounds like goose-honking!

Uh oh, you think. Is this possible kennel cough? 

Every year, thousands of puppies and dogs get sick with kennel cough, also known as “canine tracheobronchitis” or “bordetellosis.” According to the American Kennel Club, this is a highly contagious upper respiratory infection. Us humans more commonly refer to it as a cold. 

But unlike an ordinary human cold, pets cannot self-medicate or drive themselves to the doctor to fill out a prescription. That’s why they have you – their loving owner! 

Today on the Groomit blog, our canine experts look at what you need to know about preventing and treating a case of kennel cough. 

What exactly causes kennel cough?

“Kennel cough” is enough to perk up a dog groomer’s ears. Nobody likes a sick puppy, and infectious diseases require a targeted approach to ensure the least number of animals become ill. Kennel cough can be either viral or bacterial. However, the bacterial variety is what dog owners are most likely to run into. 

So, how does a dog pick up kennel cough?

Imagine a sneeze. When a dog goes “achoo!” an infinite amount of moisture droplets is released and fly through the air. The same happens with a cough. If a dog is infected with kennel cough, moisture droplets containing the Bordetella bacteria are left behind. This could be in the air and on objects such as food bowls, toys, shared beds, collars, leashes, etc. 

And as we all know, dogs love to sniff each other! Nose-to-nose contact is hard to avoid. A dog who comes into contact with kennel cough is at risk of the bacteria finding its way into their upper respiratory tract.  

If it sticks, then, unfortunately, your pup may get sick. 

Where do dogs typically catch kennel cough?

Despite our best efforts, any dog can get kennel cough. Since it is so contagious, the infection spreads like wildfire. That being said, some settings are more likely to have a positive case of kennel cough than others. 

For example, there could also be kennel cough present anywhere there is a large number of unvaccinated or rescue canines. Animal shelters find dealing with kennel cough challenging for precisely this reason. It can be hard to control new dogs coming and going each day. Likewise, shelters operate with minimal space. This makes quarantining an infected pup doubly tricky. 

Most of us already have a dog at home. In that case, your pup could come across kennel cough at a doggy daycare, dog park, pet store, in-store grooming salon, or a veterinarian’s office. 

Hear a dog with a honking cough? 

Leave immediately! Do not let your dog interact. 

Red flag kennel cough symptoms to watch for

As mentioned above, kennel cough carries a distinctive noise. The most common symptom of kennel cough is…well…a cough!

Pet MD suggests also looking for:

  • Retching
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Lethargy 
  • White foam around the mouth
  • Loss of appetite 

When in doubt, Groomit recommends a phone call to your vet. 

How to treat kennel cough 

Depending on the severity of the infection, there are a few different ways to help soothe your puppy’s throat and help them feel better. Rest and hydration are essential. Give your dog lots of water. Try to keep them relaxed. Offering nutritious food and plenty of quiet time to sleep will speed up their recovery. 

On rare occasions, kennel cough can be severe. Your veterinarian might prescribe a cough suppressant or antibiotics. Conversely, kennel cough could require hospitalization (though this is far more likely for immunocompromised dogs). 

Of course, seeing our dogs feeling unwell can be heartbreaking! 

But remember, kennel cough doesn’t last long – typically 1-2 weeks. With your love and care, they will be on the mend soon. 

Ways dog groomers and pet owners can prevent kennel cough 

Living and working with dogs means you’ll probably be exposed to kennel cough at some point. 

Here at Groomit, we take every precaution! Mobile dog grooming means our highly qualified dog groomers only see one pup at a time, drastically reducing exposure to other animals and bacteria. In addition, in-home dog grooming appointments mean no waiting inside crowded pet stores with unknown dogs. 

Owners can also ward off kennel cough with a Bordetella vaccination. Prevention is the goal. 

Are you interested in a safe and hassle-free dog grooming session?  

Check out Groomit’s list of services here

dog Grooming near me

Groomit Team

GroomIt is the first mobile platform connecting pet owners and groomers. By connecting owners and groomers directly, Groomit offers top quality services at affordable prices, all performed in the convenience and comfortability of your home.

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