Yesterday I completed my last day of a lovely fortnight at The Blue Cross. It was a great placement but I have no time to dwell on it as tomorrow I’m off to a pig farm for another two week placement!
Unfortunately a large number of dogs in the Blue Cross
kennel unit had Kennel Cough during my stay. I’d obviously heard of the disease but had never really thought to look in to it.. so here’s the result of my brief
research in to kennel cough!
Firstly it has a posh name, Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis. Like a cold in humans, kennel cough can be caused by a range
of agents including viruses and bacteria (Bordetella
bronchoseptica being a main culprit, adhering to the ciliated epithelial
cells in the trachea producing toxins that prevent the cells from performing
their role of ciliary clearance). This bacteria is part of the same family as
the bacteria that causes whooping cough in humans. Most cases involve a primary
viral infection followed by a secondary bacterial infection. Common viruses
involved are Canine Adenovirus 1 and 2, Canine Herpes virus, Canine Parainfluenza
-2 and Canine Distemper virus.
Kennel cough is characterised by a dry, harsh cough often
exaggerated during excitement and exercise. It can continue for 3 weeks or more
and may cause gagging, retching and a raised temperature.
The rehoming centre
try to prevent the disease as much as possible with well-ventilated kennels and
meticulous cleaning but with such an infectious disease bouts like the one I witnessed are not
uncommon. This is probably a combination of a large number of dogs in a small
area and the travel stress the dogs experience to get to the rehoming centre.
The disease is spread through aerosol droplets inhaled by the dog from an
infected animal. It’s easy to see how quickly the disease is spread in a confined and stressful environment
such as a kennel, for instance when taking one dog out for a walk the others
would stand at their doors and bark, projecting infected droplets towards the
The result of infection can be laryngitis, tracheitis,
bronchitis and rhinitis (inflammation of the inside of the nose), so basically
inflammation of the entire respiratory tract.
Treatment normally involves a strict rest period of 7 days
until the coughing subsides. At The Blue Cross the dogs are monitored daily
with a coughing chart and are only allowed to exercise on-site in specific
quarantined areas. They are not neutered while coughing so the disease can
delay vital rehoming processes. There is no direct treatment for viral
infections but antibiotics can be administered if a bacterial infection is
suspected or found to be present. You can administer supportive drugs that
dilate the bronchi of the lungs and even drugs that are thought to suppress the
cough centres in the brain (antitussives).
The vaccines available may prevent or reduce the effects of
the disease when it is caused by Bordetella
bronchoseptica, parainfluenza virus and adenovirus. The vaccine is often
given intra-nasally, following the natural route of infection and lasting for
12 months. Most kennels request that your animal is up to date with the vaccine before
visiting however The Blue Cross can’t do this as they are taking animals in who
can’t be cared for anymore (possibly due to monetary reasons) or who are found
on the street, therefore requesting a vaccine is implausible. The vaccine is
not affected by maternal antibodies so can be given to puppies as young as 3