One Important Shot Your Dog Needs Before You Go On Vacation
Going on a summer vacation brings up a common problem for many dog owners: Do you take Rex with you on vacation or drop him off at a kennel? From a canine health perspective, this decision is not only balanced by the logistics of finding pet-friendly lodgings during summer travel, but also deciding which choice is healthier for your pet.
This thought came to me recently after a dog owner reported to me that because of my recommendation for a “not just good, but great” kennel service that I personally use, led to his dog coming down with kennel cough while he was away on vacation. He made it clear that he was not happy about my recommendation.
What could I say? “Kennel cough happens.”
My only experience with kennel cough has been from adopting a rescue pet from a local shelter that a few days later came down with kennel cough and necessitated a trip to my veterinarian. I was told that this is very common due to crowding and less than ideal sanitary conditions at many animal shelters and one reason why one of the first things a pet owner should do is take a new pet in for a checkup by a vet.
But now, I’ve learned that my favorite kennel service may have a kennel cough problem and I have a vacation coming up. So what should I do? Stick with my current kennel? Find another kennel? Or take Carmen and Sammy with me? After doing some research I found that taking your pet with you is no guarantee of safety over boarding your pet at a kennel while vacationing.
In a recent article written by Dr. Heidi Bassler, a veterinarian who hosts a weekly radio show called “Your Pet’s Heath” and is also a monthly newspaper columnist for a pet advice column titled “Paw Prints,” your dog can get kennel cough even if he or she never steps paw inside a kennel.
In her article, Dr. Bassler explains that kennel cough is an infectious tracheobronchitis of dogs that can be caused by a wide range of bacteria and viruses. However, the primary infectious agent is Bordetella bronchiseptica—a germ related to the one that causes whooping cough in people.
With kennel cough your dog will experience inflammation of the large airways and concurrent swelling of the vocal cords that can result in laryngitis and the characteristic “goose honk” cough. The appearance of vomiting may occur as well; however, Dr. Bassler says that rather being an indication of some GI disturbances, that it is due to the dog demonstrating a gag reflex and retching from excessive mucus in his throat. Furthermore, she writes that:
“…other than the classic cough, some dogs with kennel cough are active and eating well. However, this disease may cause fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and, occasionally, pneumonia and death.”
When it comes to catching a kennel cough bug, Dr. Bassler explains that it’s not unlike catching a cold among humans. Crowded areas, enclosed spaces, etc. all contribute to the risk of exposure. Therefore, whenever you take your dog for a walk on a path frequented by other dogs, go to the groomer, or visit a pet-friendly hotel while traveling with your pet, the risk is there that he or she may get kennel cough.
So what’s a concerned dog owner to do? Dr. Bassler offers the following considerations for keeping your pet kennel cough-free:
Kennel Cough-free Pointers
• Pinpointing the origin of kennel cough is difficult because dogs can be infectious and asymptomatic. A dog that is recovering from kennel cough can continue to infect other dogs for a couple of weeks after coughing has resolved. So just because that other cute canine in the park looks healthy, that doesn’t mean he can’t pass a doggy social disease to your furry friend.
• Although most dogs with kennel cough will recover uneventfully, nursing care and medication can make Fido feel better. If your dog is up all night coughing, ask your veterinarian for a cough suppressant.
• Depending on the clinical presentation, antibiotics may be needed for treatment; however, antibiotics do not help all cases of kennel cough.
• Vaccination is a good option for dogs at higher risk, and is required by most boarding kennels and some other dog establishments.
• There are two different kinds of kennel cough vaccines: Under the skin injection and a nasal spray vaccine. The intranasal vaccine is usually effective within a few days. This can be helpful if your vacation is just around the corner. This is in contrast to the injectable vaccine, which can take a month to protect your pooch and requires a booster shot a few weeks later or it loses its effectiveness.
• Because kennel cough can be caused by a wide range of viruses, no kennel cough vaccine will be 100 percent effective.
And finally, if after vacation whether you took Rex with you or boarded him at a kennel, keep an eye on his health for the next few weeks and if he appears to be sniffling or lethargic, take him into your vet’s office for a checkup to make sure that he is not infected with kennel cough or some other doggy disease.