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My Dog Has Kennel Cough…What Should I Do?

Kennel cough is a very broad term  used to describe the cough that accompanies an upper respiratory infection in dogs.  It is usually a very contagious condition and is more likely to occur when dogs come together for daycare, boarding, dog parks, social events, etc.  It’s one of those unavoidable risks when you promote a social lifestyle for your dog.  Despite the best efforts of daycare and boarding facilities, germs get passed from one dog to another.  I like to believe that Play All Day’s diligent efforts to keep our facility clean, to manage the humidity levels within the facility, and to promote good air exchange within the building, all help to prevent breakouts of this pesky condition.  But the fact is that breakouts of contagious illness will occur.

So what should you do when your dog exhibits the hallmark cough?  Ultimately, as your dog’s caregiver, that decision is up to you.  But I will share what I do with my own dogs

  1. I keep them from other dogs in social situations, in an attempt to prevent the spread to others. My rule of thumb on when to socialize again is “cough free for 3 days”.
  2. I watch them a bit closer to make sure they are eating and drinking and determine if they are comfortable.
  3. I don’t take them in to the veterinarian’s office unless I determine one or more of the following:
  • Not eating for 24 hours
  • Not drinking
  • Are lethargic for more than a day
  • Are miserable from constant coughing (or keeping me awake all night with persistent coughing).
  • Dog is older or unhealthy for other reasons

If I do take my dog to the vet, I go armed with the knowledge that I need to treat symptoms and not the underlying disease.

Kennel cough, for the most part, will pass on its own and does not require antibiotics.  But your vet may be able to prescribe a steroid or cough medication if your dog is miserable.  But please understand that these treatments do not make the kennel cough go away any quicker…just treats the symptoms.  And the treatments for the symptoms often have side effects of their own.

Here is a link to more information from Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

I love my veterinarian team and am so grateful for the expertise and knowledge they provide for my dogs.  I am in no way promoting that you should avoid veterinary care.  When my dogs need a vet, I drop everything and get them in.  I’m just planting a seed of reason so that you don’t feel like a bad parent if you just wait it out and see if things get better on their own.  We, as humans, don’t run to the doctor every time we get a cold and your dog is really no different.  Just like a cold with us, kennel cough will most likely resolve on its own over a period of 1 week or so.

Yes, kennel cough is a pain in the rear.  If you have experienced it with your own dog, you may wonder if socializing your pooch is worth the potential headache if your dog does contract a contagious illness.  It’s all about risk vs. benefit in my opinion.  I would say that the benefits of daycare do outweigh the possibility of kennel cough.  After all, who wants to live their life in a bubble?

dog isolation

dog bubble

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