A. Kennel cough is a term loosely used to describe a complex of infectionsâ€”both viral and bacterialâ€”that causes inflammation of a dogâ€™s voice box and windpipe. Itâ€™s a form of bronchitis and is similar to a chest cold in humans. The incubation period is generally 3- 10 days. Infected dogs shed Bordetella organism for 2-3 months following infection.
Most dogs with kennel cough recover completely within three weeks, though it can take up to six weeks in older dogs or those with other medical conditions. Because serious, ongoing kennel cough infection can lead to pneumonia, be sure to follow up with your veterinarian if your dog doesn't improve within the expected amount of time. Also, if your dog at any time has symptoms of rapid breathing, not eating, or listlessness, contact your vet right away, as these could be signs of more serious conditions. Although most cases of kennel cough will resolve without treatment, medications may speed recovery or minimize symptoms during the course of infection. These include antibiotics that target Bordetella bacteria and cough medicines.
You may also find that keeping your dog in a well-humidified area and using a harness instead of a collar, especially for dogs that strain against a leash, will minimize the coughing.
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