A white dog being examined by a vetKennel cough and canine influenza are all over the news right now, leaving many pet owners in a quandary. Should I be worried? How can I protect my dog? What does canine influenza have to do with kennel cough? And what the heck is kennel cough anyways?

Given the seriousness of this outbreak, it is important for all pet owners to be educated on what kennel cough and canine influenza are and what to be looking for. Keep reading to fill yourself in.

A Kennel Cough Primer

Kennel cough is a term that describes an infectious tracheobronchitis in dogs. Commonly it results in a harsh, honking cough that can sound like your pet has something stuck in his throat. Most often kennel cough is mild and runs its course in a short time. Once in a while, however, kennel cough can be serious, resulting in pneumonia.

Unlike most diseases you may be familiar with, kennel cough is not caused by a single bug. Often dogs with kennel cough are infected with more than one bacteria or virus. Common culprits include:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (the bacteria we most often vaccinate against)
  • Parainfluenza virus (commonly vaccinated for)
  • Canine Adenovirus 2 (commonly vaccinated against)

There are several other less common organisms that may be involved. These include the canine influenza virus, herpesvirus, Mycoplasma, or canine reovirus. This outbreak is the result of a strong canine influenza virus that is new to the U.S. against which our dogs have little resistance.

A dog may become infected when he is or she is exposed to the respiratory secretions of another infected pet. Nose-to-nose contact (sniffing) and exposure to toys, bowls, and other items that have respiratory bacteria and viruses on them can result in exposure.

Normally, a dog’s respiratory system is very good at fighting off invading organisms. Sometimes, however, things such as stress, poor ventilation, and cold temperatures can interfere with the body’s ability to fight off infection. And certain viruses can be more virulent and infectious just as with the human flu virus. This can make pets housed in boarding kennels and other similar quarters at even higher risk without the proper precautions.

Dogs may begin to show signs of being sick within 2-14 days of exposure. They usually are sick for one to two weeks total, but may shed infectious secretions to other pets for up to three months.

The Current Outbreak

You have probably heard about the recent canine influenza/kennel cough outbreak that is affecting Chicagoland dogs. There is a reason that this nasty variation of the disease is all over the news, as it is proving to be much more serious than the typical infection.

The reason that the Chicago 2015 kennel cough outbreak is so serious seems to be due to the involvement of one virus that we haven’t seen involved in kennel cough in this area before. Tests have implicated a new canine influenza virus as that virus.

Canine influenza virus makes this kennel cough outbreak more serious because it has a higher incidence of progressing to pneumonia. Also, even though a vaccine against a similar strain exists, it has been rarely administered due to the previous rarity of the disease. The current vaccine can help your dog resist the new strain of influenza but can’t prevent catching it completely. Also, your dog will need a booster a week later before it is fully effective. If your dog catches canine influenza, the current vaccine can also reduce the severity of symptoms or lung damage from pneumonia.

While this outbreak can be a little scary, kennel cough is normally a pretty mild disease. Take these steps to protect your pooch from traditional kennel cough and to help protect your pet during this outbreak:

  • Be sure that your pet’s vaccines are up to date and that he or she has received any required boosters. Don’t forget that it can take up to a week for a vaccine to provide immunity.
  • Limit your dog’s interaction with other dogs when possible during the outbreak. This includes dog parks, pet stores, boarding kennels, doggy daycares, and grooming salons.
  • If you bring your dog in for grooming or boarding, understand our requirement that each dog must be vaccinated upon arrival if not beforehand.
  • Use good hygiene after handling or being around other pets. We do. While humans can’t catch canine influenza, they can transfer it from one dog to another.
  • Be sure to have your dog examined if he or she is acting depressed, not eating, running a fever, or is coughing. Early intervention can help a complicating pneumonia get better faster.

While vaccination may not be a total guarantee that your dog won’t become infected, it can make the disease course shorter and less serious. It is the most powerful weapon we have against kennel cough and canine influenza at this time.

If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to call us. We are happy to help you in any way possible.