Kennel cough is a nasty condition that a lot of dogs suffer from at some point in their lives.
If you have heard your Labrador coughing, then you will want to know what you are up against.
In this article we are going to take a look at what Kennel Cough actually is.
To help you to understand why dogs get kennel cough, how they catch it, what kennel cough symptoms to look at for.
We will also take a look at what you can do to help treat kennel cough, and whether you can protect him against it in the future.
What Is Kennel Cough
Kennel cough is a respiratory infection that will give your Labrador a noisy and persistent cough.
It is sometimes known as infectious tracheobronchitis.
It occurs when a virus or bacteria cause a dog to cough when his voice box or wind pipe become inflamed.
A dog with kennel cough will probably feel a bit like you do when you have a dose of flu.
How Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough?
Rather like flu, the name Kennel Cough applies to a set of symptoms rather than one specific virus.
There are several viruses and some bacteria that can cause it. Namely canine parainfluenza virus and bordetella bronchiseptica.
Kennel Cough is passed on through close contact with infected dogs. They breathe in a bacteria or virus particle which moves into their respiratory tract.
Your Labrador is more likely to be ill with Kennel Cough if he is also suffering from some other illness or if his immunity is depressed for some other reason.
Why Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough?
When your Labrador is ill his immune system will not deal as effectively with viruses or bacteria, and they are more likely to cause him additional health problems.
There are also certain environmental factors which will increase the chances of your dog catching kennel cough.
These include poor ventilation, cold, dust, smoke and stress.
Kennel cough was probably named for the scenario in which a dog is most likely to catch it, namely in kennels. Which have a high rate of exposure to other dogs, and can be quite stressful for dogs.
It is hard for kennels to prevent, as a dog who is about to have symptoms of kennel cough can be infectious for several days before symptoms even appear.
What Does Kennel Cough Sound Like?
Kennel cough doesn’t always sound like a cough in the way that a human would instantly recognise. It can be more of a choking sound, or a muted bark.
The best way to spot kennel cough is to familiarise yourself with the sound that it makes, which you can study in the video below.
Kennel Cough Video
In the video below you will find a short clip of a few dogs and puppies who are sadly suffering from kennel cough.
It’s a bit of a tough watch as you feel very sorry for them, but remember it’s important to know the signs so that you can spot them in your own dog.
Kennel Cough Symptoms
Coughing is not normal for dogs. And there are other conditions that can cause coughing.
If your dog has a cough, he needs to see a vet.
But talk to the vet in advance as he may want to avoid your bringing your dog in to a waiting room full of other dogs.
Your vet may be able to let you in via a side door, or to give you the first appointment of the day in order to avoid cross infection.
The video recording above gives you some idea of what kennel cough can sound like, but bear in mind that every dog is different.
Potential symptoms of kennel cough can include
- A persistent, strained cough
- Discharge from the eyes
- Nasal discarge
- Low appetite
Do contact your vet straight away if your lab is coughing. Especially if there is blood in his sputum. In severe cases kennel cough can lead to pneumonia.
And please get a second opinion if you are not satisfied that the diagnosis of Kennel Cough is accurate.
I lost a one year old Labrador with a ruptured pulmonary aneurysm after a vet misdiagnosed his blood flecked cough as Kennel Cough and sent me home with some Benylin…
How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?
Signs of kennel cough develop approximately three days after your Labrador is exposed to it.
Most dogs are only mildly affected and recover in a week or so, but occasionally the disease can be quite severe and last for up to six weeks.
Take your dog back to the vet again if the cough is getting worse instead of better, if he coughs up blood (even small quantities) and if he becomes depressed or loses his appetite.
Do not take your dog anywhere there are other dogs whilst he is contagious.
How Long Is Kennel Cough Contagious?
Kennel cough is contagious for several days before symptoms appear, and until they have entirely cleared up. Once your dog has stopped coughing, wait a couple of days before taking him out just to be on the safe side. He should stop being infectious once the cough has gone.
Can Humans Get Kennel Cough?
Humans cannot usually catch kennel cough from their dogs. However, if you have an immune compromised family member it is a good idea to keep them apart, as there is a very low risk in these extreme cases. Contact your veterinarian and medical professional if this applies to your family, for further advice.
Kennel Cough Treatment
Dogs with kennel cough usually recover on their own, without any treatment. However, if your dog has bacterial kennel cough then a veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to help speed up his recovery.
Cough medicines for dogs do exist, but do not be tempted to buy them over the counter. Get advice from your veterinarian and only give your dog a medication they have prescribed or approved.
You should always contact your vet when your dog has a cough, as it can be a sign of something very serious. However, he may upon inspecting your dog tell you it’s fine to go home without treatment. This will usually be the case if the dog coughing only has mild bouts, and is eating well and behaving normally.
Kennel Cough Vaccine
Also like flu, it is possible to vaccinate dogs against Kennel Cough.
Although many dogs have some level of immunity through previous contact with sick dogs, some will be more vulnerable to it than others.
If your dog is in his prime and brimming with health you may feel it is not worthwhile, but it is worth have a chat with a veterinarian before you make your decision.
The kennel cough vaccines currently available include an injection, a nasal spray and an oral tablet.
The frequency with which your vet will offer you the vaccine will depend upon your Labrador’s risk level for kennel cough and any potential complications.
Talk to your vet about vaccination, and he will help you to decide whether it’s the right choice for your Labrador.
More help and information
Check out our Labrador health pages for more information about keeping your labrador fit and healthy
You may also find the following articles on health complaints in Labradors useful:
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website