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Magazine Aug 27, 2008 - 10:02 AM

What to do when your pup is under the weather

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Recently, there have been reports of several cases of Canine cough, an illness among dogs not unlike the human flu. Here are a few things you need to know about this condition and some tips on how to handle it and even better – how to prevent it.

“Infectious Canine Tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) is a contagious respiratory infection in dogs caused by viruses, bacteria (Bordetella) and Mycoplasma”, says Dr. Steven Zeide, DVM, owner of Bulls Head Pet Hospital in Stamford, since 1975. “Although uncommonly contagious to people, those who are immunosuppressed are most susceptible. Infectious canine Tracheobronchitis is most severe in puppies 6 weeks to 6 months of age. Dogs will usually exhibit a dry hacking cough followed by a gagging or spit up of mucus. Excitement, or exercise, can exacerbate the cough.”

Dr. Zeide also points out that the time of exposure to manifestation of symptoms is 4 days. “In most pets the cough is mild with no change in behavior or appetite, because the lungs are not infected. Rarely pets can have appetite loss, lethargy, and difficulty breathing. The diagnosis is made by eliminating other causes such as lung infections, foreign bodies in the throat or airway and canine influenza”, says Dr. Zeide. It’s important to remember that you should always seek a professional veterinarian’s advice when your pet is not feeling well.

As with many diseases, when it comes to kennel cough early detection and treatment goes a long way. “ An intranasal vaccination every 6 months will most often prevent severe illness from affecting your pet,” says Dr. Zeide, adding that the vaccine does not guarantee prevention against Tracheobronchitis due to the multitude of possible causes.

John Caro, owner of Camp Bow Wow in Stamford, says that this condition is similar to a chest cold for humans, but is not contagious to humans or cats. “However, it is fairly contagious among dogs depending on stress level and vaccination status. Just as in the common cold, Canine cough is not cured, but must run its course,” says John.

“The good news is that it is often seasonal and tends to hit an entire area at one time. When veterinarians begin to see cases, they normally come from all over town. When the virus has run its course, they may not see another case for months.”

Dr. Zeide also reports on another respiratory disease, Canine Influenza which is a highly contagious respiratory disease spread from dog to dog by airborne particles or contaminated surfaces and is much more serious. All breeds and ages of dogs are susceptible. The incubation period is 2-4 days. The clinical signs dogs may show are fevers (103-104, normal being around 100-102.5), nasal discharge, coughing that can last for several weeks and pneumonia.

Any dog exposed to other dogs in groups such as day care, kenneling, parks, obedience classes, rescue shelters are most susceptible. The diagnosis early on is indistinguishable from Tracheobronchitis (kennel cough). Later in the disease, pneumonia can set in due to bacteria or other causes. X-rays and blood tests are suggested tests available to aid in the influenza diagnosis. The treatment is aimed to prevent infection for other pets whereby infected dogs are contagious for about 7 days post-onset of clinical signs.

Antibiotics, and cough suppressants and medication are used to help dogs breathe better are used on an individual-as-needed basis. Kennel facilities harboring the virus should be evacuated for 1-2 weeks and thoroughly cleaned with dilute bleach. There is no evidence this is contagious to humans.

Here are a few simple tips from the local pet caretakers of Camp Bow Wow on how to ensure the health and happiness of your dog:

- If your pup is coughing, do not bring them to a communal location. Have them treated by a veterinarian immediately. This includes grooming, daycare, or boarding.

- Make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations

- Vaccinations are the key to a healthy pet. Especially if you have multiple pets or enjoy socializing your dog with others at the park or at a doggy day care, proper preventive care will help ensure a healthy lifestyle. We recommend regular veterinarian visits for all of our customers and anyone who is concerned about the health of their loved ones. At Camp Bow Wow, we require Bordetella vaccinations every six months, and require these shots prior to boarding or camping, and we recommend that it be done intra-nasally because it is more effective. Vaccinations will not ensure that your dog will not contract Canine cough, but it will help.

- Wait 10 days after the last cough to bring your dog back to a public multi-pet setting
If your pets’ Bordetella vaccination has expired and a new vaccination has been administered, it takes four days to generate a solid immune response. In our location, we only allow pups back in after they have not been coughing for 10 days to ensure the health of our other campers.

Your dog is susceptible to Canine cough even in your own backyard so don’t let it deter you from living a full life!
As humans, we accept that germs and potential illnesses are everywhere and happily go on with life, making healthy decisions along the way. We must do the same for our companions.
Canine cough does not happen only in kennels. Since this virus can be present anywhere and can travel for considerable distances through the air, it can affect any dog even one which never leaves its own yard! Canine cough is more likely to occur when the concentration of dogs is greater, but we encourage you to also consider the tremendous benefits of socialization. Don’t let Canine cough deter you from dog shows, day cares and parks!

Remember, always seek the professional help of your veterinarian whenever you suspect that your pet might be sick.

Dr. Zeide can be reached at Bulls Head Pet Hospital in Stamford, 203-324-5711, or online at; Camp Bow Wow can be found online at or by phone at 203-504-2288.

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