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Signs Of Kennel Cough In Dogs

signs of kennel cough

When I decided to give up city living and move to a small rural town, one of my first thoughts was of companionship.  I’m divorced and my kids are grown, and I didn’t want to end up being the old lady surrounded by a troupe of cats.  I was determined to stay healthy and walk a lot, so a dog was the obvious answer.

I returned to my apartment for the last load, with just enough room in the SUV for a new playmate.  I had already visited some of the local pet stores, but decided to make my choice from a No Kill animal rescue center. I’d grown up with dogs of indeterminate parentage, and read stories about the problems that come along with many purebred dogs, so I was looking for a medium-sized, active, healthy, and loveable mutt.  Purebred dogs are darned expensive anyway, and I didn’t want to spend a sizeable chunk of my savings on a possible liability.

I went in that animal shelter feeling happy, but after 15 minutes I quickly became depressed and confused.  Dozens of pleading faces, and I could only take one!  Okay, so I had to rationalize. No purebreds, no old dogs, no puppies, and the dog had to be easy care, and short-haired because of my allergies, and medium-sized.  It came down to two, housed in adjacent cages and both acting the fool, trying to out-do each other to attract my attention. They both won their freedom.

Together we explored our new surroundings with fervor and our walks took us into unknown country, but after a few days, Alfie was the first to show symptoms of kennel cough, although I was totally ignorant of the typical signs of kennel cough in those early days.

I’d found a couple of fields where they could run around without their leashes, but when Alfie had finished tearing around after Benny, he would start hacking. I thought perhaps he was allergic to something growing in the field, but when I put him back on the leash, he would start wheezing and coughing up phlegm even more persistently and a white foam oozed from the sides of his mouth.

Back at the house I took him off the leash and he licked my face, but his bad breath nearly caused me to throw up! He seemed a little better, but then the sneezing started, in between bouts of coughing that caused him to vomit, leaving him looking sad, red-eyed and exhausted.

I worried, but he was otherwise behaving quite normally so I foolishly put it down to allergies and perhaps his collar was too tight. I was not aware that he was exhibiting the first signs of kennel cough in dogs.

Alfie coughed all night and in the morning he was positively lethargic, with white foam permanently on the sides of his mouth, a runny nose, and to my horror, diarrhea.

The following two days I took them out, but Alfie lagged behind, and he appeared to be getting worse.  Luckily, a car passed us and slowed down and a man climbed out and introduced himself as the town’s veterinarian. We had a brief conversation, but then Alfie started letting out his high pitched honking cough and the vet looked concerned, he said Alfie was showing signs of having the kennel cough virus and that I should bring them in separately to his office after hours and he would give them both a kennel cough test.  He thought it quite possible that Benny would come down with it too.

In his examination room, he said Alfie had all the kennel cough signs and symptoms. Even though I didn’t know Alfie’s history, his health had definitely deteriorated in those first few days.  He was eating, but he would wolf down his food and water so fast he vomited, and then cough up phlegm and white foam would encrust the sides of his mouth.

Alfie’s test came back positive, but when I took Benny the next day, his kennel cough test was clear, although the vet told me that kennel cough is highly contagious.  I separated the two dogs while Alfie was being treated and left him home to rest for a few days while I took Benny for his morning walk. It broke my heart to see his little face pressed up against the window, but in a serious case of kennel cough, I could have lost my new friend.

The vet also told me that it wasn’t unusual for dogs that have been in shelters, or come from puppy mills to develop kennel cough.  Animals that have been kept in warm, confined, or poorly ventilated spaces with lots of other dogs are quite likely to develop kennel cough.

It’s a loose term, which covers a number of possible infections including parainfluenza, bordetella and adenovirus-2.  When caught early, any of these can be cured with care, rest and the right medications – including the use of home remedies.  Kennel cough is rather like the common cold in adults, it can be spread by contact and through the air – even by sharing water bowls – and it’s difficult to avoid when dogs are kept in close confines.

The important thing is to recognize the first signs and take appropriate steps.

And what does kennel cough sound like? Let’s hear from Dr. Greg Martinez, DVM.

Want to learn how to take better care of your pet? Then be sure to check out Veterinary Secrets Revealed!