My Dog is Coughing

Recently there has been a widespread incidence of a respiratory disease in dogs and cats. The diseases are quite specific and are not transmissible from one species to another.

In dogs the disease is a tracheobronchitis or kennel cough.

The cause is a virus similar to the virus causing canine infectious hepatitis. Various secondary bacterial invaders complicate the initial infection.

The condition is highly infectious and seems to spread rapidly from dog to dog in a particular district. The name kennel cough is used as the condition can be endemic where large numbers of dogs are kept in a confined area.

The first symptom of the disease is an occasional subdued cough which quickly becomes more frequent and louder if the dog is exercised or becomes excited.

Usually the dog does not appear ill and continues to eat normally. Prolonged bouts of coughing are usually followed by retching as the dog attempts to rid itself of the irritation in its throat.

If the condition continues unchecked over a number of days, the dog may refuse food when the tissues of the throat become inflamed. It may drool saliva, as it is painful to swallow, and at this point the dog usually has a fever due to secondary infection.

The incubation period is quite short, the first signs of the disease appearing about 5 days after exposure to infection.

Treatment is aimed at reducing the inflammation of the tissues of the upper respiratory tract and the prevention of secondary infection. Anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics are usually prescribed and if the coughing is very pronounced a cough-suppressant is recommended.

The dog should be kept as quiet as possible and in an even temperature. Do not place the dog in a room that is too hot, as this will tend to dry out the already inflamed mucous membranes and also produce more rapid respiration. In severe cases confining in a steam-filled room has brought considerable relief.

The respiratory disease currently affecting cats is caused by a virus of the feline influenza complex.

A severe inflammation of the throat and tonsils produces coughing. In some cases the eyes become very reddened and have a watery discharge, but unlike in other epidemics of respiratory disease, little sneezing or discharge of the nose occurs.

In severe cases the cat refuses to eat, becomes very depressed and develops a high fever. Its throat may become so sore that it is reluctant to swallow, and saliva may hang from its mouth. Its respiration can become quite noisy as the lining of its air passages and nose become swollen.

Treatment is not specific, as with any viral disease all that can be done is to limit secondary infections with antibiotics and reduce the inflammation in the tissues with anti-inflammatory drugs. If the cat is not eating, nutrients must be given by injection.

Vaccination against feline influenza should be considered, especially if the cat is likely to be placed in a boarding cattery. Only healthy cats can be vaccinated, and two injections are necessary, at least three weeks apart.

Only after the second injection is the cat immune, therefore vaccination must be begun at least three weeks before placing in a cattery. A single booster injection annually is recommended.

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