Kennel Cough (Canine Contagious Respiratory Disease)

Canine Contagious Respiratory Disease, also known as "Kennel Cough"or CCRD, is a highly contagious disease transmitted by air and wind currents contaminated with cough and sneeze droplets from infected dogs. As the name implies, kennel cough occurs with high frequency in boarding kennels, dog shows, dog parks, and other areas where dogs may be congregated.

There is no one organism on which to solely place the blame for this disease. In fact, over six different causative agents have been isolated, including several types of adenoviruses and reoviruses, the canine herpesvirus, the parainfluenza virus, and the Bordetella bacterium. All of these agents can cause disease by themselves or in combination with the others. The Bordetella organism is related to the bacterium that causes whooping cough in humans, and can cause permanent damage to the airways of affected dogs if not detected and treated soon enough.

The classical clinical sign associated with an uncomplicated case of CCRD is a relentless dry, hacking cough, usually nonproductive. Occasionally, a clear discharge from the nose might appear. Gagging or retching might be noted at the end of a coughing spell and is often mistaken for vomiting. Affected dogs usually don't run a fever or seem to "feel bad," nor is it common for them to lose their appetites unless a secondary bacterial pneumonia occurs.

Complicated cases are characterized by a greenish eye and nasal discharge, and by obvious breathing difficulties as pneumonia rears its ugly head. In these instances, affected dogs do run fevers, do lose their appetites, and do appear sick.

Diagnosis of CCRD is based upon the presence of the classical clinical signs, plus a recent history of exposure to other dogs. Radiographs might be required to evaluate the extent of the lung and airway involvement in complicated cases. Bacterial cultures are also indicated in these latter instances.

Treatment of the disease consists of antibiotic therapy to combat the Bordetella organism and other secondary infections, and, in the case of nonproductive coughs, cough suppressants. Owners need to realize that coughing can persist for up to three weeks, even after treatment.

If complications exist, more specific therapy will be needed to battle the pneumonia and fever and to prevent dehydration. Vaporizers are often used to liquefy secretions in the airway, allowing for greater ease of passage. A similar effect can be obtained by placing the affected dog in a steam-filled bathroom for ten to 15 minutes. Just be sure the temperature within the room doesn't get too hot; plenty of water should be provided for the dog to drink while receiving this type of therapy.

An intranasal vaccine can be administered to provide some protection against CCRD, yet it won't protect against all of the organisms that may cause the disease, only the most serious ones. As a result, even a vaccinated dog may come down with a cough if exposed to another dog with kennel cough.

For maximum effectiveness, the vaccine should be boostered every six months. If a dog has not been vaccinated within the past six months, a booster should be administered no later than one week prior to a scheduled event or boarding.

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