Its the time of year again when we see lots of coughing dogs and, as a result, lots of anxious owners. The signs of Kennel Cough, which is simply a blanket term used to describe an upper respiratory infection, are typically a dry, hacking cough, which can sound like they have something stuck in their throat and can cause such frenzied coughing as to make your dog actually vomit. Gently pinching the dog’s windpipe (trachea) can often elicit a cough and this is what vets call the ‘tracheal pinch test.’ If the infection, which is usually a mixed infection caused by a cocktail of viruses and bacteria, is mild then a low grade cough may be the only feature and they will usually recover within about 1-2 weeks. Some cases can be more severe, however, and may require antibiotics and/ or antiinflammatories. The key signs that antibiotics are required are if your dog is hacking up phlegm, or has a nasal discharge, or has a really rattling cough – the kind that you would have with a nasty chest infection.
The best way of thinking of Kennel Cough is more like the ‘Doggy Common Cold,’ and the name is really an historical reference to the fact that we tended to see more cases in kenneled dogs as a result of lots of different dogs coming together and sharing the same airspace. This is very much like the situation when students all return to university and we see outbreaks of ‘Freshers Flu.’
There are Kennel Cough vaccines, which are given up the nose by your vet, and your dog’s annual vaccination actually already provides immunity to one common respiratory virus. The nasal vaccine is not, however, 100% protective and your dog can still pick up an infection, again, due in large part to the fact that the signs are caused by lots of different infectious agents and not simply by the few that are included as part of the vaccine.
So, if your dog has recently developed a cough then maybe, just maybe, they have picked up a spot of ‘Doggy Common Cold.’