One of the public relations problems for boarding kennels today is caused bya commonly misunderstood disease called “canine cough”, tracheobronchitis, or“para-influenza”. As a dog owner you should be aware of some of the factsregarding this disease.

What is canine cough?

Infectious tracheobronchitis is a highly contagious upper-respiratory diseasewhich is spread by an airborne virus. The incubation period of the disease isroughly 3-7 days. The main symptom is a gagging cough, sometimes accompaniedby sneezing and nasal discharge, which can last anywhere from a few days toseveral weeks. Although this coughing is very annoying, it does not usuallydevelop into anything more serious. However, just as with the common cold seein humans, it can lower the dog’s resistance to other diseases making him/hersusceptible to secondary infections. He/she must therefore be observed closelyto avoid complications, and if symptoms become worse consult yourVeterinarian.

How is it cured?

Just as in the case of the common cold, tracheobronchitis is not “cured”, butmust run its course. Antibiotics will often be prescribed to prevent secondaryinfection, and sometimes cough suppressants will be prescribed to reduceexcessive coughing, but these medications will not cure the disease.

Does tracheobronchitis only occur in kennels?

No. Since these viruses can be present anywhere and can travel considerabledistances through the air, they can affect any dog, even one which neverleaves its own back yard. However, tracheobronchitis is more likely to occurwhere the concentration of dogs is greater such as at dog shows, kennels,veterinary offices and hospitals, pet shops, dog parks, or dog classes. Dogscan also be exposed while running loose in your area or while being walkednear other dogs.

In kennels, dogs are in close contact with each other, and can be feelinghighly stimulated and perhaps a little stressed form being away from theirhome environment. These factors can result in a lower resistance to thedisease. If your pet dog is exposed to other dogs regularly (such as regulardoggie daycare, pet resort stays, dog park visits etc), then your dog is morelikely to acquire immunity to the disease. It is important to note that evenduring a widespread outbreak, only a relatively small percentage of dogs areaffected.

Are the viruses a constant problem?

No. Tracheobronchitis, like the flu, is often seasonal. It also tends to beepidemic. When veterinarians begin to see cases, they normally come from everypet related business or activity in the area, as well as from individual dogowners whose dogs are not socialised at all. When the outbreak is over, theymight not see another case for months.

Can my dog be vaccinated to protect him against tracheobronchitis?

Yes! Vaccines against parainfluenza and adenovirus type 2 (in combination withother vaccines) are routinely used as part of an adult dog’s yearly check up.Puppies are usually vaccinated for these in combination with distemper,hepatitis and parvovirus in a series of immunisations. It is important to notethat the vaccines that are used to prevent this viral disease are made fromone strain of more than 100 different strains of the virus and therefore arenot as effective against some strains as others are. Intra-nasal vaccines arealso available for Bordetella Bronchloseptica (another cause of canine cough).Although some veterinary practices do not use this intra-nasal vaccinationroutinely, it should be considered for pets that board or for those whoseveterinarian recommends it. Your veterinarian is in the best position torecommend a program of preventative health care management depending on yourpet’s needs.

Can the kennel prevent my dog from catching tracheobronchitis?

Unfortunately, no amount of supervision, sanitation, or personalised care canprevent a dog from “catching” an airborne virus. Just as your child’s schoolhas no way of preventing a flu outbreak, a pet boarding facility has no way ofpreventing Canine Cough. Schools, hotels, and pet boarding facilities alikecannot be held responsible for any virus outbreak. Instead, a good boardingfacility will recommend immunisation against tracheobronchitis, refuse toboard any obviously sick dog, listen and watch for any signs of sickness(strangely, the dog with parainfluenza alone may not appear ill, yet isalready contagious), and make sure that any dog requiring veterinary attentionreceives it as quickly as possible. The pet owner is financially responsiblefor such care.

What should you do if you dog is diagnosed with Canine Cough?

If your dog is diagnosed with canine cough, you must keep your dog at home andensure that they do not have contact with any other dog outside of youhousehold. Additionally, if your pet is booked to go to a boarding facility,it is essential that you do not take them if they are unwell or have beendiagnosed with Canine Cough, as at it presents a high risk for your petspreading the virus to other pets in the facility.

One of the biggest challenges faced in high risk areas and activities such asdog parks, boarding facilities, doggie day care centres, dog training classes,pet sitters or vet surgeries is that the dogs spreading the virus are oftennot showing symptoms at the time that they are contagious. This makes itdifficult to determine which dogs are contagious, and also means that it isimpossible to know if a pet is carrying the virus and not yet symptomatic. Therisk is therefore always present any time your dog is in the vicinity of otherpets.

Summary of Points:

  • Canine Cough is one of the most common respiratory diseases in dogs.
  • It is often incorrectly referred to as “Kennel Cough”, although it can be transmitted anywhere that dogs gather, and even in your own home from dogs passing by your yard who are infected.
  • The term Kennel Cough used incorrectly is now considered to be factually wrong and has resulted in litigation against users of the term. This virus is not caused or related to a Kennel, it is a virus that can be contracted in countless places.
  • No amount of supervision, sanitization, or personalised care can prevent a dog from “catching” an airborne virus such as Canine Cough.
  • The best defense to protect your pet is to ensure that they are fully vaccinated and receive their booster vaccine every year.

For more information, contact the Australian Pet Care Association anytime byemailing us at [email protected]

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