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Protecting your dog from kennel cough

Yulia Khouri / Khmer Times Share:
A puppy in the community treated by Animal Mama Clinic. Lee Fox-Smith

Rabbit is a strong active five-month old puppy who was rescued off Rabbit Island by his current loving human parent. The lucky pup came to us when he was a tiny six-week old baby for his de-worming and we have seen him grow up into a beautiful, healthy, strong and very playful dog.

Rabbit comes to our daycare regularly and I have not seen a more active and friendly dog. Few weeks ago, Rabbit’s owner called us sounding rather worried: Rabbit didn’t finish his diner and kept making choking and hacking noises. His owner feared that Rabbit picked something off the street or/and it was stuck in his throat. Almost immediately I thought: sounds like a kennel cough.

Kennel cough, also called canine infectious tracheobronchitis, affects most dogs at some point in their life time. It is similar to a cold in humans and it is very contagious.

In general, kennel cough sounds and looks more serious than it actually is: a very particular hacking cough (that also may look like choking) can be accompanied by a runny nose, sneezing and eye discharge. In more serious cases it may include lethargy, fever and decrease in appetite. Luckily, veterinarians seem to agree that most of the time it is not a serious condition and most dogs recover in few days without any treatment.

Our consulting veterinarian, Dr. Charlotte Soyland says that it is a mistake to immediately put the animal on antibiotics, because the infection is usually caused by a virus and will resolve itself. However, it could also be a bacterial infection, so just like all things related to animal health, a visit to a qualified vet to determine the cause and careful monitoring of your dog at home is absolutely necessary.

According to WebMD, dogs “catch kennel cough when they inhale bacteria or virus particles into their respiratory tract. This tract is normally lined with a coating of mucus that traps infectious particles, but there are a number of factors that can weaken this protection and make dogs prone to kennel cough infection, which results in inflammation of the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe).”

Some of these factors may be exposure to the virus at the boarding or daycare facility, groomer’s, or during playtime or even a brief “meeting” with other (infected) dogs on walks. Other factors like cold temperatures, stress, dust or cigarette smoke may be to blame.

No kennel, pet hotel, grooming salon or boarding facility is immune to kennel cough. Often, with the strictest health vetting measures in place, the facility may unknowingly allow in an infected dog that does not show any symptoms; this dog becomes the infection epicenter to other dogs without anyone knowing.

So, what is the way to protect our dogs from kennel cough, while not isolating them nor denying them the pleasure of daycare and doggy play dates? First and most importantly, make sure that when your dog shows any symptoms of kennel cough it is taken to the vet. Do not allow it to play with other healthy dogs, until it recovers. Given the contagious nature of kennel cough, it is up to us all to ensure that proper isolation of the virus is put in place immediately. Isolating your dog for the recovery time will also protect the viral breakout among other dogs in the community.

Like with any infection, when your dog is sick, its immune system will be busy fighting it.

You can help your dog to recover faster by boosting its diet. Allow it to rest and offer plenty of fresh cold water and good nutritious food. Personally, I follow the advice of Dr. Karen Baker about the benefits of Moringa powder for dogs, as a whole food supplement to “quickly bolster cellular nutrition”.

When you leave your dog at any place that has many incoming animals – from a grooming salon to boarding centers – the risk of infection is higher.

What can the pet businesses do to protect your dog?

At Animal Mama pet hotel and daycare we impose mandatory 10-day quarantine in our facility when/if a sick dog visited the facility. If you are the owner of a dog kennel or pet hotel, please ensure that once you identify the sick dog, isolate it immediately from the rest of the pack and do your best to get it to the vet and back to its home.

If the animal is boarding, a vet visit and full quarantine for the sick animal is required. Advise your other clients that you have had a case of kennel cough and encourage them to observe their pets at home. Remember: pet parents and owners would appreciate your honesty and care for their dogs and eventually will put more trust in your business long-term, because you have high professional ethics, responsible practice and not afraid to lose some of your income for the benefit and health of the dogs under your care.

As for Rabbit, he recovered on his own in three days with no use of antibiotics – just lots of good food, TLC and rest at home with his human dad. While we missed him and other clients during our quarantine period, we are happy to welcome him and other guests back to our facility. There’s nothing better than seeing a healthy pack of happy dogs playing in the pool and chasing mangoes.

Stay healthy!

Animal Mama® Animal Clinic & Welfare Centre provides a wide range of services for animals & pets: vet care, boarding, daycare, pet food & supplies, hydrotherapy, grooming and doggy play dates.
Please visit us at:
Villa #15, Street 500
Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh 12311
Clinic: +855888744411
Mobile: +85510500999
Mobile: +85510500888
[email protected]

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