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Kennel Cough

Prevention is the best option

Kennel Cough has been doing the agility rounds. Dogs of any age or breed are susceptible. It makes them feel under the weather, miserable and will bring on other underlying problems in older animals. It is spread vigorously through all forms of social contact including agility classes or meeting other dogs at shows. One club, at least, has stopped training for the moment. Peter van Dongen explains about this highly contagious infection in this abridged version of Chapter 20 of his book Vets & Pets.

This condition is officially called ‘Infectious Bronchitis’ or ‘Infectious Canine Tracheo-Bronchitis’. It can be picked up from any dog, in the street, in the park, at the dog club, at a show etc. It is a multi-factorial disease, meaning that it is caused by several micro-organisms, as well as environmental conditions, such as stress for instance.

Some of the organisms involved are the Para-Influenza virus, the Herpes virus, the Adeno virus, the Bordetella Bronchiseptica bacterium and possibly others such as the Pasteurella bacterium. It spreads through the air, particularly when dogs cough. It is highly contagious, meaning that dogs can pick up the disease easily from other, infected, dogs.

Symptoms & treatment
Look for a dry hacking cough, sometimes with retching, but also inappetance and depression. Dogs can cough for several days up to several weeks and can stay infectious to other dogs for as much as three months after the cough has cleared up!

Treatment is usually with antibiotics for 5-7 days, sometimes together with other drugs as well. Remember, antibiotics kill bacteria but they do not affect viruses, so the dog may still continue to cough for several days after treatment has started. I generally advise that dogs are kept away, as much as possible, from other dogs for at least two weeks after the coughing has stopped.

The best cure
Preventing the spread of Kennel Cough (KC) is possible, to a certain extent, by vaccinating. There are two vaccines on the market these days, giving protection for up to six months. These vaccines are administered intra-nasally, which means ‘drops up the nose’, so that it will result in ‘local immunity’, as the disease is contracted by breathing in through the nose. They do not give total protection, as they do not contain every single causative agent of the disease, and breakthroughs are possible. However, even in case of a breakthrough the vaccine will give some protection and your dog will be less ill. Vaccination is particularly important if your dog has an increased risk of catching KC (such as at clubs or shows!) or if your dog has a pre-existing disease, such as heart disease or lung disease! The best advice is to have your dog vaccinated every six months, just like I do with my own two dogs!

Many boarding kennels require your dog to be vaccinated against KC nowadays and I would normally advise you to get your dog vaccinated at least five days before boarding.

Most vets will charge something in the order of £10 to £20 for the vaccination, which is less than treatment would cost.

Don't forget
Whatever the incubation period of kennel cough or any other INFECTIOUS condition - please remember that you have signed a contract with the show not to bring your dog within 21 days to a show if it has been IN CONTACT let alone had the condition itself.


About the author...
Peter van Dongen
qualified as a vet at the Utrecht Veterinary school, The Netherlands, in March 1990. He worked in a mixed practice in Louth, Lincolnshire for three years, before moving to Borough Green, Kent. At the same time he limited himself to small animals only. Since December 1996, he has run a branch practice in Allington, Maidstone, Kent.

In May 1995 Peter started agility (after years of just thinking about it!) with his Jack Russell Cross 'Basil' (a bitch!), then five years old. Since then they have qualified for many finals, including Crufts and Olympia. Basil, Peter's first and still only agility dog, is now an 'Advanced' dog - the highest level in the UK - and still going strong at the age of 11 years! Basil has won the coveted Crufts 2001 title in the individual Mini agility.

Peter passed the British Agility Club Instructors' exam in October 1999 and has since done the British Agility Club Judging Workshop.

Peter and his wife Carry still live in Borough Green with their two dogs and two cats.

Vets & Pets is a bound collection of a series of articles originally published monthly by The Agility Voice and The Agility Eye.
All profits from the sale of the book will go to a dog charity.
To read a review or buy the book, click here.

From Ann Miller...
I was wondering if it would be possible to do an article or something about kennel cough. My dogs have just recovered from it and I'm amazed at the ignorance there is about amongst agility people.

I attended a show without my dogs and, when I explained why there weren't there, the majority of people asked me when had they been in kennels. My dogs never go in kennels. When I said this they couldn't understand how my dogs had become infected.

My friend also heard a dog coughing and the owner saying she didn't know what was wrong with her dog. Good job I didn't hear her! Perhaps a bit more awareness may help to reduce the numbers coming down with it. (01/06/04)