Kennel cough, a condition of our times
Maybe my memory is mistaken, but it seems as though the changes that have occurred over the past forty years have been not just technological in nature. It seems that somehow people themselves have changed in very contradictory ways. For example, when I compare the athletes playing in the 70s and 80s to today, the John McEnroes and Walter Paytons for example, I notice that today’s athletes seem to be at a whole different level. Not to take anything away from the heroes of the past who were phenomenal in their day, the athletes of today seem almost “bionic” in strength and speed compared to the athletes of a generation ago.
Now when we go to the opposite side of the spectrum and discuss illnesses, it seems that for some reason illnesses have gotten worse and scarier than past years. I never heard of the “old timers” sitting around discussing cancer when I was a child the way people do today. Illnesses that were never heard of before seem to be surfacing and causing much pain and suffering. Fibromyalgia was an illness I had never heard of, even when I was in pharmacy school in the early ‘90s, but now it’s a condition almost everyone has heard of. It seems to me that more people have back pain, myalgia, cancer, colitis, and a number of other illnesses than a generation ago.
About two months ago I developed a cough that was productive and seemed to be coming from my lungs. I went to the doctor and he prescribed an antibiotic which I took for the recommended ten days. That should have been it, right? Well it wasn’t. The cough went on and on past the last dose of zithromycin that was prescribed. I called the doctor and he asked me to come in for another checkup, which I did. Apparently now I had a ‘post-nasal drip” which could last for months!
A week ago my dog Daisy also developed a cough, so now we were both sitting on the couch watching television and coughing together. What a pitiful sight that was! When Daisy first started coughing I was concerned that she could have contracted kennel cough, so I took her immediately to the veterinarian for an exam. Being an old-time veterinarian, I asked Dr. Miller if kennel cough is something that seems to be getting better or worse over the years. He looked at me and smiled, saying, “Kennel cough seems to be spreading much more rapidly these days.” He went on and said something quite interesting: “I can tell you for sure that when I was a child myself, kennel cough was unheard of!” Then Dr. Miller went ahead and wrote out a prescription for cephalexin and sent Daisy and I on our way.
This week since Daisy and I are both coughing together, I chose to address a common condition called kennel cough. Kennel cough is a condition that is usually transmitted between dogs, very similar to the transmission of the common cold virus between humans. The particles containing the bacteria is transmitted through a dog’s cough or a sneeze, and gets on countertops, toys, or other surfaces or are simply breathed in by another dog. The reason it’s called “Kennel Cough” is because this disease is very easily spread in pet boarding facilities. The particles that are responsible for this common infection are Bordetella bacterium, the canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2), and the canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV).
Most dogs begin to show symptoms of kennel cough about five to seven days after being exposed to other dogs with the bacteria or virus, and it usually takes 14-20 days before the symptoms begin to subside. The dogs look like they are in pain or are in extreme discomfort and it’s very difficult to watch them coughing like that. There is discharge from the nose with symptoms that make it appear as if the dog is choking. Some dogs will stop eating while their body is fighting this disease, and this makes the situation even worse.
The best way to get kennel cough diagnosed and treated is by bringing the sick animal in to the veterinarian. If the condition is likely to resolve itself, your veterinarian may prescribe a cough suppressant containing codeine or recommend you buy an over-the-counter cough suppressant such as Nectadyne. Some have found the over-the-counter homeopathic cough medication “HomeoPet Cough” very helpful in treating these uncomplicated cases. If the case is complicated, your veterinarian may prescribe an antibiotic such as Baytril or cephalexin for example. There are many other choices of antibiotics that may be preferred by your veterinarian, so it is best to trust your vet’s treatment decisions and recommendations.
The best way to prevent kennel cough is to immunize your dog with an intranasal vaccine. The vaccine is very effective but does have its own set of complications. It is better to give the immunization a week or so before the expected time that the dog will be boarded. Some canines may develop a mild illness that could last for a few days after receiving the vaccine. Only your veterinarian should decide if a vaccine is appropriate for your dog, or if it’s better not to vaccinate. Some veterinarians have strong opinions about the appropriateness of various vaccinations. Always listen carefully to your vet’s suggestions, advice and guidance.
Remember, your 1800Petmeds pharmacist is available to answer any of your pet medication related questions.