Canine cough is a term used to classify any number of upper respiratory diseases. The disease is often incorrectly referred to as “kennel cough” but it could as easily be called “dog park cough” or “veterinary cough,” because dogs are just as apt to be exposed in those environments as they are at a boarding facility. Its clinical term is trachiobronchitis and is usually spread by the infectious agents of the parainfluenza virus, canine adenovirus, bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria and mycoplasma. Transmission is primarily via airborne methods, but a pet can become exposed to it on surfaces that the agent has settled onto.
Gestation periods can range anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. The lower gestation periods are more common in the Flagstaff area. Symptoms include a persistent cough, retching, and a watery nasal discharge, even though the dog remains active and appetite is normal. Often times the disease is self limiting, but you should seek veterinary advice as sometimes underlying secondary infections can become an issue.
The true diagnosis requires blood chemistry tests, a complete blood cell count and maybe even a chest x-ray. Many other minor tracheal infections present as canine cough and the treatments are similar. This is why often times a veterinarian will save you the cost of the blood work and x-rays and simply diagnosis under the general heading as “canine cough” and send you on your way with some medications. Keep in mind that your dog may not actually have trachiobronchitis, but some other underlying pathogen in which treatment is the same. The only way to verify true canine cough is to have the laboratory confirm it.
Multiple studies with regards to boarding centers have shown that facility design, amount of space afforded to your pet and stress also play key roles in your pet’s ability to fight off any pathogen that might be present. Ask about air exchange within the facility (this is different than air conditioning units which recirculate air and are common and inadequate) and the amount of dogs that will be boarded at one time. Many facilities will crowd in the dogs to maximize profits. This will lead to pets becoming stressed, which can lead to staff becoming stressed. It is a never ending circle and a pet’s immune system can become compromised in the presence of stress. Ensure that a facility not only provides adequate space, but they also include activities for your pet that will keep them engaged with little or no stress.
Effective formal training of staff is the number one preventive measure any facility can do to minimize the potential for properly vaccinated animals becoming sick while under their care. Our responsibility does not lie on “keeping an animal alive” while in our care, but rather giving the family member a positive and enjoyable experience during their stay. This in turn goes a long way in keeping animals safe and healthy while entrusted in our care.