Kennel Cough or Bordetella, can present in dogs anytime they are together. It can show up at the vet’s office, pet stores, kennels, neighborhood walks, apartment buildings, condos, groomers, the park, and at dog daycare. Kennel Cough is an upper respiratory illness, similar to the common cold in humans. And like our common cold, kennel cough is contagious and its symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Most healthy dogs will recover completely from Kennel Cough within 7-10 days; however, the contagious period can be even longer, in some cases, up to three weeks.
FREQUENT Q & A’s
Q. What is Kennel Cough?
A. An upper respiratory illness that affects dogs.
Q. What are the symptoms?
A. A dry hacking cough, and/or a deep, seal-like cough producing white foamy mucous. Some listlessness. The coughing tends to be most severe upon waking, after exercising, and at night.
Q. How did Kennel Cough get into the daycare and spread?
A. That’s a tough question to answer. Kennel Cough is a highly contagious, airborne virus that can infect another dog 2-3 days BEFORE the dog with Kennel Cough shows any symptoms, and 2-3 days AFTER the symptoms disappear. So even a seemingly healthy, robust dog can spread the virus to others. Anytime dogs are in close proximity with each other, they can spread the illness (remember it’s airborne). Just as you will see a cold pass around your kid’s classroom or your office, kennel cough can pass through a kennel (hence the name) or daycare facility.
Q. What should I do if I suspect my dog has Kennel Cough?
A. A call to the vet is always wise and encouraged. Depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms, your vet may want to see your dog or they may simply suggest medication or ask you to come in and pick up a prescription. If your Vet advises you to bring your dog in to be seen, the office will likely instruct you ahead of time on their particular protocols to minimize its spread within their office. Since the illness is contagious, you should keep your pet at home and away from other dogs. It is advisable to limit your dog’s exercise as well because even mild activity can trigger the coughing.
Q. Can there be complications from Kennel Cough?
A. YES. While most healthy dogs can get over Kennel Cough on their own, there is a risk the virus can weaken the immune system to the point another opportunist illness can occur. The most common, but rare, complication is pneumonia. It is especially important to take your pet to the vet if your pet is a senior, a puppy, has health problems such as a weakened immune system or is on drugs that might suppress the immune system, or if symptoms worsen.
Q. What is the treatment for Kennel Cough?
A. Your vet will most likely prescribe antibiotics (to prevent pneumonia) and a cough suppressant. And the joke is a Valium for you (the coughing can maddening for both you and your pet).
Q. How soon can my dog return to daycare?
A. The general rule of thumb is 10-14 days from the onset of symptoms. We understand this is a long time to hamper your dog’s natural proclivity to socialize but it is the only way ensure your pet does not infect others.
Q. Is there a vaccine to prevent Kennel Cough?
A. Well yes, and no. There is the Bordetella vaccine which is a requirement at most if not all daycares, including ours. However, the vaccine – like the human flu vaccine – is not 100% effective. The good news is there is a reduced chance of of infection if your dog has been inoculated, and if infected, the vaccine may help to reduce the severity of your dog’s symptoms.
We require the Bordetella be given at least once a year. In some cases, Vets will recommend your dog get vaccinated every six months. Your vet is the gold standard of your pet’s health so please check with them with regards to what they suggest.
Q. My pet is on medication for Kennel Cough and no longer showing any symptoms but it’s only been 4/5/6 (insert number less than 10 to 14) days since the onset of illness; I have a busy schedule, can my pet come back to daycare?
A. NO. As we have learned Kennel Cough is highly contagious 2-3 days before and after symptoms appear and disappear. It is unfair to other owners to expose their pets to the virus and incur a vet expense. And most importantly it’s just not nice to expose another pet to the virus, and have them get sick.
Q. What precautions do you take at your daycare to avoid Kennel Cough?
A. We routinely sanitize and disinfect the daycare inside and out using a combination of Lysol, soap/water, and a cleaning solution specifically made for kennels and daycares called Envirusol. The outside yard is disinfected using a patented device called a wysiwash that affixes to our hose and uses the cleaning power of bleach combined with water pressure to clean and sanitize our turf and play structures. We also soak all bowls overnight and clean them with soap and water daily.
Q. I have two dogs and only one got sick, can the other one come back to daycare?
A. Because carriers of the illness can remain asymptomatic, and it’s clear both your dogs would have been exposed given that they live in close proximity to each other, it’s best to leave both home for the the appropriate “contagious period”. Better safe than sorry!
Q. My Vet said my dog has an upper respiratory infection and not kennel cough specifically; can he come back to daycare?
A. Because the symptoms for kennel cough and other upper respiratory infections overlap and can be misdiagnosed, we ask that all dogs exhibiting signs of an upper respiratory infection or kennel cough – coughing, runny nose, fever, wheezing – remain home for the full contagious period.
If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to ask!