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Understanding Kennel Cough in Dogs

Buzzle Staff
Kennel cough is a disease dogs can get that is similar to having the flu. If you suspect your dog has the disease, it's always best to call your veterinarian.
If you have ever had a dog with kennel cough, you know it is a terrible disease that can have your puppy coughing and throwing up without any warning whatsoever. Although it lasts a long time - up to three weeks - it is rarely fatal.
There are many ways to treat kennel cough, but, like the flu in humans, it's often best to wait it out and keep your dog comfortable while he or she is sick.

Signs and Symptoms of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that spreads through dogs that have been in contact with each other. Luckily, kennel cough is easy to spot. Your otherwise healthy dog will suddenly begin coughing. When dogs cough, it often sounds like they are dry heaving or gagging.
Sometimes dogs will do this even if they don't have kennel cough, especially in colder months with dry air pumping through heating vents.
If you notice the coughing has gotten worse, or if you've tried to remedy the coughing by putting your dog in a steam-filled bathroom for a while and it hasn't gotten any better, there is a good possibility your dog has kennel cough.
Another tell-tale sign is when your dog coughs so much he or she starts to vomit. The vomit associated with kennel cough is most often white and foamy, not filled with food or bile.

Causes and Prevention of Kennel Cough

As stated above, kennel cough is highly contagious. If you know there are other dogs with the disease that live near you or attend the same doggie day care as your pup, it is best to seclude your dog for the duration of their disease.
Kennel cough is also spread in high-stress situations. If you don't usually kennel your dog or drop him or her off at day care, this can be a high stress situation, especially if you have a shelter dog.
These dogs are especially nervous about being left behind, and sometimes leaving them in a shelter-like situation can stress them out enough to lower their immune system and make transmission of the disease easier.
Many veterinarians recommend Bordetella vaccines every six months to a year for your dog. This can help prevent against kennel cough, but it is similar to a human getting a flu shot. Sometimes, even if you get a flu shot, you can still get the flu, and this is the same with dogs and the Bordetella vaccine.

What to Do if you Think your Dog has Kennel Cough

Once your dog starts to vomit, or once you notice his or her cough is getting much worse, it is imperative to get him or her to the veterinarian as soon as possible as too much vomiting can cause dehydration and become dangerous for your dog.
After kennel cough has been diagnosed, your veterinarian may give your puppy an antibiotic.
This can upset your dog's stomach, though, and make the vomiting worse, so you may want to ask about vomit suppressants while you're there to avoid another trip to the vet later.
When you get home, be sure to take the water bowl away from the dog, as gulping water can also upset your dog's stomach. Give him or her ice cubes every hour or so, and little bits of food if you can, to keep your furry friend hydrated. Most importantly, you must keep your dog away from other dogs while he or she has symptoms.
As long as the symptoms persist, your dog is still highly contagious. Don't spread the misery to other animals; be sure to keep your dog secluded.