Kennel Cough - Symptoms

By Tess Thompson

Kennel cough in dogs is a fairly common condition. It occurs when a dog comes into contact with or is near an infected dog. The most likely time when this can occur is when the dog has been kenneled for a period of time.

However, being kenneled is not the only manner in which dogs can contract kennel cough. Dogs may get infected even when they have not been recently boarded because an infected dog can potentially pass on the infection to another by sneezing and coughing.

The most common viral agent that causes kennel cough is parainfluenza. The incubation period of the virus is three to four days. It is only after the incubation period that the dog shows any signs or symptoms of the infection. The duration of kennel cough in dogs is approximately six to ten days unless there is another bacterial agent that results in extending the normal period of the condition.

Although bacterial cultures and isolation of the virus is possible to identify the agent causing kennel cough, blood tests are usually not performed since the characteristic nature of the symptoms are fairly easy to diagnose. A brief reference to symptoms, history, and recent exposure to other dogs is enough to obtain a conclusive diagnosis.

The most common symptom of kennel cough is a dry, hacking cough that produces a ‘honking sound’. The cough can be identified if you know that it sounds as if there is something stuck in the throat and the dog is trying to dislodge it by coughing. Even among those who are aware of the specific nature of the coughing sound, the first reaction of the dog owner tends to be to check whether there is actually something stuck in the throat or not.

The coughing or gagging can be quite severe. It may continue for some minutes or be repeated at short intervals. It is often accompanied by a watery discharge. If the sound of the cough is not enough to confirm your hypothesis, a simple way of checking whether the coughing is related to kennel cough or not is to press the throat gently, just in the collar area. If it is kennel cough, it will induce coughing.

There is no need to panic if your dog has kennel cough, since the symptoms generally resolve on their own, in mild cases. However, if the cough is severe and your dog expels mucus while coughing, a visit to the veterinarian is necessary. The symptoms of kennel cough can progress and may cause fever, lethargy, lack of appetite or pneumonia. In extreme cases, kennel cough can also lead to death.


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