Western Wisconsin is currently undergoing an outbreak of Kennel Cough.
Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that can spread like very quickly in environments where dogs come into close contact with each other. Many owners who frequently board their dogs or send them to daycare try to take preventative measures by getting their dogs vaccinated with the Bordatella vaccine, however the vaccination does not guarantee 100% immunity. It does lessen the chances of becoming infected, and can lessen the duration/hold it can have on your dog if they do become infected... but it's not a guarantee that your dog is immune. To complicate things, there are new strains of kennel cough that are developing on a constant basis making it difficult to stay ahead of the curve- especially during an outbreak.
What is kennel cough, and what does it look like?
Kennel cough is basically an infection of your dog's respiratory tract, much like bronchitis in humans. It can affect their windpipe, voice box, and lungs. Often times, a dog is carrying a virus that makes them more susceptible and when they then inhale the bacteria that causes kennel cough- boom: kennel cough.
The number one sign is a persistent cough. The classic cough can very much sound like a goose's "honk". If your dog is coughing on their own regularly, or if you palpate your dog's throat and it triggers this style of cough... you should definitely be getting into contact with your vet. Many times, the dog may appear healthy in all other aspects outside of this one symptom.
Other things to look for include: Gagging, coughing up a white foamy phlegm, fever, reduced appetite, lowered energy level, runny eyes, or nasal discharge.
What precautions can you take?
Kennel cough is called kennel cough because it is very likely to spread like wild fire in areas where dogs are put into close contact with each other for extended periods of time, such as a kennel environment. Facilities with that house many dogs at a time can find it extremely difficult to stop the spread of this kind of infection. Kennel cough can be passed through the air, from contact with contaminated objects, or with direct contact with an infected dog. If you need to board your dog during an outbreak, be sure to research your options in regards to family members, dog-sitters/house-sitters, or smaller boarding operations as they are more able to keep things contained, controlled, and monitored.
If your dog frequents a doggy day care or boarding facility do not be shy- ASK: Have you had any dogs in your care recently that have been diagnosed with kennel cough. Ask what precautions they are taking during this kind of outbreak... what sanitation measures they are taking, and their overall protocol during an outbreak. Then, calculate the risks and play it safe whenever possible.
Avoid dog parks. With a kennel cough outbreak especially, owners may pull their dogs from doggy day care as a precaution... but then turn to a dog park as an outlet for their dog's energy. Dog parks are often a bad idea for many reasons (I'll save that for a whole different blog post), but when there's an outbreak of kennel cough it is even more of a gamble. There are no regulations put into place on required vaccinations, or required fecal checks, for those who attend dog parks which means the dogs that your dog comes into contact there may be carrying stuff that you do not want your dog to contract.
Do your part. If you have any suspicion that your dog may have come into contact with infected dogs, or facilities, especially if they are coughing... reach out to your vet and follow their advice on a plan of action. The best course of treatment should always be determined by your veterinarian, and they will have the best advice when it comes to guidance on how to be a responsible pet owner if your dog does have kennel cough so you can help prevent the spread!