Kennel Cough

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 walking dog.

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 weeks old.
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