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Kennel Cough - vets comments

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Kennel cough is an upper respiratory tract infection in dogs. It is made up of normally from a viral component and a bacterial component. So the viruses we tend to just let run their course, we do not have many antiviral drugs in veterinary medicine, but we will often treat with antibiotics for the secondary bacterial infections that will happen with a kennel cough infection.

Kennel cough is very widespread, it is very contagious. You can pass it on, it is airborne so you pass it on by just being in the same environment as another dog that has the kennel cough. Once they have the kennel cough, they will have a very dry, harsh cough and every time they are coughing they are just expelling all these bacteria and viruses, that are going to get picked up by other dogs.

They can become quite unwell with it, especially younger dogs or older dogs where their immune systems are not quite as competent as adult dogs' immune systems are. It can lead to pneumonia in severe bouts, and at that point, it needs a lot of treatment and supportive care. In a lot of cases, you just get that dry cough for three, four, five days and then it will pass with the antibiotics on board as well. The good thing is that we can prevent kennel cough from happening. There is a great vaccine that we use and it is used routinely with many dogs that go to kennels and often dogs that are walked by dog walkers or pet sitters that have various dogs in their household from different places.

Because it is so contagious, once one dog has it, if you are dog-sitting or walking a group of dogs, all those dogs will get it. So it is advisable in any situation where your dog is going to be mixing with other dogs to get them vaccinated against the kennel cough vaccine. It is not 100% effective; it is much like the human flu jab, it changes, it changes itself each year to try and get around the vaccination, so although it will not stop every single case of kennel cough from happening, it will reduce the symptoms that your dog will show if they do catch it and, hopefully, you can avoid a visit to the vet and they will get over it quite quickly.

So the kennel cough vaccine is an interesting one. It is an intranasal vaccine, so it goes up the nose, which means that it works quite quickly because it is going to the site where the bacteria and the virus invade in the first place. It should be effective within three days or 72 hours is what the drug companies will say. However, most kennels or anywhere where it is required, they will say they want your dog to have had it at least 10-14 days before they are going to come into that environment. And I think that is absolutely fair enough, it is just a safety barrier to make sure that it is effective, and also means that if your dog is incubating that virus when it has had the vaccine, it then gives it time to come out, because there are some cases where the dog will have picked up the virus before having that vaccine.

If they then go into kennels three days later, they are still going to exhibit the signs and be contagious to other dogs. If you are giving yourself a 10-14 day window, then the incubation of the kennel cough period is shorter than that. The dog will have the signs and be over it by the time it goes into the kennels, so 10-14 days would be the recommended period before going into kennels.