You may have heard there’s been an outbreak of kennel cough in New Zealand. With surges occurring nationwide, dog owners are being urged to be extra cautious. But how serious is kennel cough (also called canine cough), what are the symptoms, and how is it treated?
Here’s everything you need to know about kennel cough in New Zealand and what you can do to protect your pup and help stop the spread.
What is kennel cough?
Kennel cough is a respiratory infection in dogs that’s potentially deadly. It can be caused by a wide variety of bacteria and viruses, and produces inflammation in the upper respiratory tract. As the name might suggest, it’s quite common in kennels due to the large numbers of dogs in shared spaces.
That doesn’t mean your dog can’t get it from other places though! Like dog parks and dog-friendly beaches. Even a walk down the street can be enough to contract it.
Is the kennel cough in New Zealand outbreak serious?
Any outbreak of a disease is something to take seriously. Although canine cough is rarely fatal, it’s still no fun for any dog suffering from it – and it can cause pneumonia. Plus, it’s highly contagious.
This means that once it starts to spread, it can be very difficult to contain.
Another concern around kennel cough is that it can survive on surfaces for long periods. Similar to another virus we all know…
It can even spread via droplets on people’s clothing, pet water bowls and even grass. That’s a serious spreader.
While there’s no need for a panic attack if your dog does contract canine cough, owners should be wary. It’s an unpleasant couple of weeks for both dog and owner, potentially requiring vet treatment.
And an outbreak could be very troublesome for immunocompromised dogs, who are especially susceptible to more severe symptoms.
What are the symptoms of canine cough?
The classic symptom of kennel cough is, unsurprisingly, a persistent and forceful cough. It’s often described as sounding similar to the honk that a goose makes. That said, the cough can vary somewhat. In some dogs it’s dry and hoarse, whereas in other dogs it’s a productive cough with mucus.
Other symptoms that can go along with canine cough include sneezing or a discharge from the nose or eyes. Normally, your dog will have a good appetite and seem perky otherwise.
How can you prevent and treat kennel cough?
Prevention is better than cure! There are a few ways you can minimise your dog’s chances of contracting kennel cough. The most important is vaccination. A puppy’s initial course of vaccinations is the first step in attaining lifelong protection against it.
If your dog does catch kennel cough despite your best efforts, it is normally quite easily treatable with assistance from a vet. Let’s take a look at prevention and treatment options for kennel cough.
Preventing kennel cough in New Zealand
There is a vaccine available for kennel cough, which should be administered when your dog is still a pup. It usually requires a booster once every 6-12 months. If your dog regularly goes to the kennels, doggy daycare, or is otherwise exposed to other dogs or places where dogs have been – i.e. pretty much anywhere outdoors – then the vaccine should form part of your routine care.
So too should social distancing from other dogs, especially during an outbreak (we should know ALL about that by now!).
Why? Because, unfortunately, even vaccinated dogs aren’t completely protected. Duke, a vaccinated dog, recently suffered the effects of the outbreak of kennel cough in New Zealand. Don’t worry, he’s fine now!
But why can vaccinated dogs still get sick? The vaccine protects against the Bordetella bacterium, which is the most common cause of kennel cough. However, there are other bacteria which can cause it too. While your dog’s chances of getting kennel cough are significantly lowered with the vaccine, owners still need to be vigilant.
Much like the COVID-19 virus, kennel cough is highly contagious and spreads quickly. Keeping your distance and limiting interaction with other dogs is one of the easiest ways to minimise your dog’s chances of coming into contact with kennel cough.
Top tips for prevention
To limit the chances of your pup being one of the cases of kennel cough in New Zealand’s outbreak, here’s a summary of what you can do:
- Vaccinate when they’re a pup then follow up with regular boosters
- Try to avoid areas where lots of dogs congregate
- Minimise your dog’s interaction with other dogs elsewhere
- Don’t let them drink from shared water bowls in community spaces
- Considering washing your dog after they’ve been on a walk
- If you’re wondering about kennels vs pet sitters for your holidays or weekend away, a pet sitter is a lower risk option where kennel cough is involved
Treating canine cough
If your dog does contract kennel cough, seek veterinary assistance ASAP. Although it’s rarely fatal, in some dogs it can be. Regardless, a vet’s treatment can help make your dog comfortable and speed up the recovery process.
The exact treatment will depend on the severity of the cough. Some dogs are treated simply with rest for a couple of weeks, which should be enough time for their body to recover. Others may be given antibiotics or other supportive treatments like humidifiers or cough syrups to help ease symptoms and encourage a quicker recovery.
Most dogs will recover within three weeks. If your dog is older or has other health conditions, it may take up to six weeks. Keep monitoring your dog throughout though, because a bad case of kennel cough can lead to pneumonia in some instances.
Remember, it’s very important to keep your dog away from others if you know or suspect that they have kennel cough. Let’s all work together to help stop the spread.
Dog got kennel cough? Pet insurance to the rescue!
A vet can confirm a diagnosis if you suspect kennel cough, and they’ll let you know if they need to provide medicine.