Understanding Kennel Cough
Straight Talk about Kennel Cough,or "Don't Panic, It Will Pass"
Starting a panic in a pet boarding facility is easy. Just let a dog produce a dry, hacking cough, and watch the wheels begin to spin...The entire staff of the facility will kick into action, and they will be in full lock down mode. But probably not for the reason that most pet owners believe. That's what we at Paws and Claws want to communicate with our clients in this article...
If word gets out to the public that a facility has a case of "Kennel Cough" in house, the public tends to go just a bit overboard in their reaction. We want to share some information with you that will calm your fears, and provide some comfort to you as a pet owner, and a client.
First of all, understand that we are not in any way downplaying Kennel Cough as a problem. For young puppies, elderly dogs, and those with compromised immune systems, it can be serious, and does require a veterinarian's attention. But, for the large majority of dogs, the threat is minimal, and will take care of itself within a time of about 7 to 10 days.
Simply put, Kennel cough, or technically, "Bordatella," is a virus that invades a dog's respiratory system, produces a dry, hacking cough, and inflames nasal and tracheal linings. It's a bit like the summer headcold that invades your work place when someone shares their germs around by coughing, not washing their hands properly, or not covering their nose when sneezing. Everybody gets it, and everyone is annoyed by it. Stopping it is difficult. The bordatella virus thrives on warm, wet, surfaces, such as a dogs mouth and nose, and begins its lifecycle. It will produce symptoms after laying in wait for 5 or 6 days after first exposure, and those symptoms will last 7 to 10 days. The cough can be persistant and annoying, but no other physical traits may be present.
It spreads quickly thru a close group, and any dog within the area of air-borne moisture particles has a chance to develop the cough. That moisture will cling to most surfaces, and can then be picked up easily. Food and water dishes, floors, walls, are all possible landing sites, and transmission spots. A kennel is an assembly line for the bordatella virus, with multiple dogs in close proximity, even if that kennel is dutifully cleaned. The virus is hardy, and can persist, and infect for weeks.
Kennel Cough can be transmitted by the top show dog in the world, or the humblest of mixed breed lap-dog. There is no difference. If the virus is present, it will spread.
The concern that we want to share is the public reaction to an outbreak of kennel cough. A false reputation has developed that blames veterinary and boarding facilities for being the "cause" of bordatella, due to unclean conditions and improper sterilization of facilities and utensils. While those things are certainly going to cause problems, they are by no means to be blamed in every case. The cleanest, brightest, most well-maintained facility can also harbor Kennel Cough. All it takes is a single individual dog, welcomed into the facility without the knowledge of owner or proprietor, and the virus is entrenched. Blaming or abandoning the facility in question, is truly not the best policy. Starting a panicked public rumor about a well-run facility having a death plague is most assuredly a huge over-reaction. It does much more harm than good. Arm yourself with "facts" and react in the most helpful way for your dog.
So what does a dog owner do if your dog should show symptoms? Generally speaking, a healthy adult dog will run the virus to its life course, and the cough will disappear inside of two weeks, without intervention of a veterinarian. If the cough persists, a visit to the vet will find you with a cough suppressant, or in some cases, an antibiotic course. Problem solved. There may be times when an alert veterinarian will find some other problem connected to the cough that will require different treatment, but those are outside of the subject of Kennel Cough, and need to be addressed by your veterinarian.
Prevention is another subject. Many dogs build a resistance to bordatella thru exposure to many other minor organisms, and will never contract Kennel Cough. Most dogs have amazing immune systems, and fight off all manner of viruses naturally. If you do board your dog regularly, effective vaccines are common, and most facilities and events for dogs require proof of having that protection. If you are an individual owner that avoids vaccinations, you will find admittance to either as nearly impossible. Truth be told, some vaccines CAN be blamed for problems in some dogs, but they are rare. If you need to board your dog or gather in dog activities, immunize. Most veterinarians now give the vaccine in an inter-nasal mist, rather than an injection, and it works fairly quickly. To be safe, have the vaccine minimally 10 days out from boarding.
That takes care of what you can do to prevent the annoying Kennel Cough. But what about the facility that you choose? What do you look for in finding a concerned and pro-active dog facility? While admittedly not 100% effective, due to the nature of the virus, CLEANLINESS and constant attention to it, is the best defense. Professionally and purpose made cleaning agents should be employed during the cleaning process. Everyday should find runs, suites, floors and facilities being maintained and cleaned. All utensils, food and water bowls being sterilized and replaced when needed. Suspected cases of a cough should immediately be quarantined from the general population of dogs, and treated separately. It's more than welcome at such facilities for you, the client, to ask about the procedures for all cleaning that takes place. Give yourself peace of mind that your beloved family member is being taken care of effectively.
What do we in the boarding profession want our clients to know and understand about Kennel Cough?
Hopefully, we've been able to provide you with accurate and helpful information on the topic of Kennel Cough. We hope that your dog has a long healthy life, and a long and happy relationship with us at Paws and Claws! Please feel free to ask us questions regarding our protocols at any time!!!