Your dog’s cough is serious

September 22, 2019

The Coutu family had a great vacation in Croatia. But when they got back their dog was coughing and it turned out to be more than a cold. Here’s their story.

Their dog’s cough—dry and rough—was so odd that when Carl and Gabrielle Coutu first heard it, it made them laugh. Of course, while they were basking in the Croatian sunshine, their dog was boarding at the local kennel. When the Coutus returned home, they took Milou to the groomer and then headed straight to the dog park so that he could meet up with his buddies.

Three days later Milou started to cough and sneeze. Strange coincidence: when their daughter got in from daycare that day, she, too, was coughing and sneezing.

Could there be a link between Milou’s cough and the Coutu’s daughter’s cough?

No, it’s impossible for a person to transmit a cold or flu to a dog, and vice-versa.

However, Milou’s respiratory symptoms may well stem from when he crossed paths with a dog infected with kennel cough—after all, he’d been around quite a lot.

It’s essential to protect your dog from kennel cough, which although rarely a serious condition, is nonetheless troublesome.

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, usually presents as a rough, dry cough. It’s

spread when an infected dog’s nasal secretions travel through the air when he or she sneezes and coughs. You can even be the vector of transmission, by carrying infected secretions on your clothes. In these cases, a healthy dog that comes up to you to be petted can get sick.

If it doesn’t get worse, kennel cough clears up by itself, as was the case for Milou. It’s a process that can take days, but for Milou it took several weeks, which is not abnormal. He was forced to rest as the sickness is exacerbated by exercise and sometimes even by the pressure of a collar on a dog’s trachea (windpipe) or larynx. During this period, Carl and Gabrielle took Milou out on 3 short daily walks, of less than 10 minutes each. Milou was not allowed to take part in any activities which might cause coughing and, to encourage the expulsion of secretions, the Coutus didn’t give him any cough suppressant medications.

Severe cases

In some cases, a dog like Milou who has kennel cough may tear and have nasal discharges, which can vary from clear to purulent (or pus-containing). In extreme cases, the cough can be so violent that it provokes vomiting. These signs usually indicate that the condition is severe.

In dogs with weakened immune systems, the illness can degenerate, leading to bronchitis or acute bronchitis of the trachea—it’s rare, but it can happen. Fever, fatigue and/or loss of appetite may be signs of pneumonia. In some situations, treatment with antibiotics may be essential. And, in extreme cases, intravenous treatment and oxygen therapy in the hospital setting may be necessary.

Because the illness is extremely contagious, it goes without saying that Milou wasn’t allowed any contact with other dogs. The Coutus were advised to wait at least 10 days after their dog’s cough had cleared before allowing Milou to meet up with fellow canines.

Preventing kennel cough

  • Never leave your dog at a daycare where vaccination isn’t a systematic requirement.

  • If you visit places where lots of dogs mix—such as a dog park—be sure to protect your 4-legged best friend from this awful flu! The best protection, by far, is vaccination.

  • Two types of vaccination are currently available: either your dog receives 2 subcutaneous injections at a 1-month interval, or, he or she receives the vaccine via intranasal administration. In both cases, a yearly booster shot is recommended to maintain your dog’s level of immunization.

  • These vaccines can be given as soon as your dog is 2 months old.

Key points

  • Younger dogs—who aren’t yet vaccinated and come from contaminated environments—are particularly susceptible to kennel cough.

  • It usually goes clears up within 2 weeks.

  • It’s essential to monitor your dog closely during this time and be sure that complications don’t develop.

  • A dog’s cough can indicate the presence of more serious health problems, such as tumours, pulmonary infection and inflammation, a collapsed windpipe and even heart failure causing pulmonary edema.

Two pieces of advice: Help prevent kennel cough by vaccinating your dog and when he or she coughs, always take it seriously.


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