The winter is upon us, we are all facing diseases such as flu and head cold.
Did you know you that dogs can also catch a cold?
A cold for a dog is called infectious tracheobrinchitis, or more commonly referred to as ‘kennel cough.’
This disease is an inflammation of the respiratory system, including the nose, the trachea (wind pipe) and the bronchi (the branches of the wind pipe in the lungs).
It is caused by a complex of viruses and bacteria with a dominance of bacteria by the name of bordetella bronchoseptica.
This infection is typical to dogs only. People cannot get the infection from dogs nor do cats.
The disease is highly contagious. The transmission of the infection is aerosal. This means that the causative agents are found in the air and dogs do not have to be in contact in order to get infected.
The disease is very common to be found in places with large numbers of dogs such as animal shelters, boarding facilities or even puppy training classes.
The most common symptom of the disease is a dry hacking cough followed by motions that resemble vomiting and production of a white, foamy discharge.
Runny nose and eye infections are also commonly seen.
The disease is typically self limiting in a healthy dog, but might get complicated in puppies, older dogs or a dog suffering from other diseases that have weakened its immune system.
If the disease complicates it might lead to pneumonia and other severe illnesses.
The disease is diagnosed by a physical exam.
The veterinarian will also ask you questions about the history of the dog, trying to gather information that might support the exposure to the causative agents of the disease.
Depending on the dog’s condition, the vet might recommend further tests such as blood tests or chest x-rays to assess the severity of the dog’s condition.
Depending on the medical findings, the dog can be treated by drugs such as antibiotics and cough suppressants.
Fortunately there are vaccines available against kennel cough.
The vaccines that are given to puppies, which later are given annually to adult dogs, contain coverage against the viruses responsible for the disease.
There is a separate vaccine against the bacteria bordetella bronchoseptica. This vaccine is given topically straight into the nose.
Vaccination cannot totally prevent development of disease but it will reduce the severity of clinical signs to a much more manageable level.
The vaccine is recommended to any dog but especially to a dog that might be in greater risk of encountering the disease, such as prior to boarding, grooming or training classes.
Some of the boarding facilities will not admit unvaccinated dogs to their premises.
If your dog is sick, I strongly recommend isolating him from other dogs until the disease has resolved.
It’s probably best to socialize your dog with other dogs in well ventilated places, best at the outdoors to try to avoid catching the disease.
Please consult your veterinarian about more information on kennel cough and the vaccines against it.
Moshe Oz is a veterinarian and operates the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in West Kelowna, 2476 Westlake Rd.