Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Pet Expert: Kennel Cough On The Rise

Back in January of this year, a kennel cough outbreak spread spanning most of Ontario. Now, this highly infectious canine respiratory illness is proliferating throughout Ontario again, however some veterinarians are concerned it could be more serious this time around.

Veterinarians in British Columbia and Alberta are seeing new strains of kennel cough that are more resilient and much harder to detect, and some believe we are in the midst of a country-wide spread of this new strain as new cases pop up from coast to coast.

Many veterinarians attribute this new strain to COVID-19 lockdowns, which caused high numbers of pet parents to skip vaccinations over the last two years. Kennel cough vaccinations, also known as bordetella vaccines, can go a long way towards protecting your pooch from contracting a respiratory illness.

Kennel cough, also known as tracheobronchitis, can be caused by dozens of different viruses, but a new one, dubbed ‘canine coronavirus’, has been reported with increased frequency in recent months. While it is not transmissible to humans, it can easily be transmitted to other dogs.

Although kennel cough is highly contagious, it rarely results in serious health problems. Thankfully, most dogs recover from this illness on their own with time and rest. However, there are instances where kennel cough can lead to more serious illnesses like pneumonia; this is not a virus to be taken lightly.

Symptoms of kennel cough include a phlegmy, deep cough, lethargy, a low grade fever, runny nose, sneezing, eye discharge, and loss of appetite. It is possible for dogs to carry kennel cough without showing symptoms, however this is uncommon.

Contrary to popular belief, a dog does not need to come into direct contact with an infected dog to become infected themselves. Kennel cough is an airborne virus, and can effectively live for several days on everyday objects like grass and dirt, toys, water and food bowls, and even clothing. Because of this, it is very difficult to do contact tracing as it is utterly impossible to account for everything a dog comes into contact with on any given day.

Unfortunately, during times of kennel cough outbreaks, many will point their fingers at places like pet retail stores, doggy daycares, veterinary clinics, pet boarders, pet groomers, and more. While these places are often frequented by many pets, these are also the places with the most rigorous sterilization protocols.

While it is possible for a dog to contract kennel cough from anywhere, the most common places for transmission include public spaces with no sanitizing measures like dog parks, popular walking trails, and fire hydrants, for example. These are the places you should avoid during peak times of kennel cough cases.

If your dog is showing any symptoms of kennel cough, immediately keep him indoors and away from other pets. Contact your veterinarian by phone or email (do not bring your dog into the clinic), and be prepared to quarantine your pooch for up to two weeks. Oftentimes, no treatment is required. However, your vet will do a full assessment to ensure your dog is receiving proper medical care.

The best way to prevent kennel cough is to stay up to date on bordetella vaccinations. While the vaccine doesn’t protect from all kennel cough strains, it will help to reduce symptoms in infected dogs – similar to getting a COVID vaccine.

Nobody wants their pet to be sick. Thus, it is important pet owners understand kennel cough well enough to not only recognize symptoms, but to know what measures to take in the event of an infected pet.

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit

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