Kennel Cough

Summer is here in Tucson which means outdoor and travel season are upon us!  Your pet may stay at a boarding kennel, take many trips to the dog park, or even need more frequent trips to the groomer.  With these types of interactions, your dog does run the risk of contracting kennel cough.  This article will help you learn more about the signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention of kennel cough!

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough is a broad term covering any infectious or contagious condition of dogs where coughing is one of the major clinical signs. The term tracheobronchitis describes the location of the infection in the “windpipe” or trachea and bronchial tubes. Several viruses and bacteria can cause kennel cough, often at the same time. These include adenovirus type-2 (distinct from the adenovirus type 1 that causes infectious hepatitis), parainfluenza virus, and the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. Because the infection spreads when dogs are housed together, it is often seen soon after dogs have been in kennels, hence the name “kennel cough.”

What are the clinical signs of kennel cough other than coughing?

Clinical signs may be variable. It is often a mild disease, but the cough may be chronic, lasting for several weeks in some cases. Common clinical signs include a loud cough often describe as a “goose honk”, runny eyes and nose, swollen tonsils, wheezing, lack of appetite and depressed behavior. Most cases of infectious tracheobronchitis have a demonstrable or elicitable cough that occurs when the throat is rubbed or palpated.

What is the treatment for infectious tracheobronchitis?

There is no specific treatment for the viral infections, but many of the more severe signs are due to bacterial involvement, particularly Bordetella bronchiseptica. Antibiotics are useful against this bacterium, although some antibiotic resistance has been reported. Some cases require prolonged treatment, but most infections resolve within one to three weeks. Mild clinical signs may linger even when the bacteria have been eliminated.

How can I prevent my dog contracting Kennel Cough?

Most vaccination programs your veterinarian will recommend contain adenovirus and parainfluenza. Bordetella vaccination is also highly recommended for dogs that are boarded, groomed or interact with other dogs in areas such as dog parks.

How effective are these vaccines?

Immunity, even if the dog has experienced a natural infection, is neither solid nor long-lasting. We cannot expect vaccines to do much better.  Rita Ranch Pet Hospital recommends our Bordetella/Parainfluenza vaccine be given as drops in the nose.  This can protect your pet for up to one year.  We also offer an injectable Bordetella that only ofers about six months of protections.  Some kennel facilities require a booster vaccination shortly before boarding and many kennels require a booster vaccine every six months to ensure maximum protection against this troublesome infection.

How are the Bordetella vaccines administered?

Bordetella vaccination is given either by injection or intra-nasal route. Intra-nasal refers to the liquid vaccine administered as nose drops. This allows local immunity to develop on the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and windpipe where the infectious agents first attack.

Normal Vaccination Response

It is common for pets to experience some or all of the following mild side effects after receiving a vaccine, usually starting within hours of the vaccination:

  • Discomfort and local swelling at the vaccination site
  • Mild fever
  • Decreased appetite and activity
  • Sneezing or mild coughing, “snotty nose” may after your pet receives an intranasal vaccine

More serious, but less common side effects, such as allergic reactions, may occur within minutes to hours after vaccination. These reactions can be life-threatening and are medical emergencies. Seek veterinary care immediately if any of these signs develop:

  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Itchy skin that may seem bumpy (“hives”)
  • Swelling of the muzzle and around the face, neck, or eyes
  • Severe coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Collapse

A small, firm swelling under the skin may develop at the site of a recent vaccination. It should start to disappear within a couple weeks. If it persists more than three weeks, or seems to be getting larger, call Rita Ranch Pet Hospital at (520) 624-6100.

The Importance of Recheck Visits

What Is a Follow-up Examination?

If your pet is being treated by a veterinarian, it’s likely that you will be asked to return for a follow-up examination. This physical examination is usually scheduled a few weeks after the initial examination and may be done for a number of reasons, such as:

  • To evaluate the effectiveness of a treatment or medication
  • To assess healing after a surgical procedure
  • To monitor the progression of a disease
  • To determine if a medication is being maintained at the proper blood level
  • To modify the treatment, if needed
  • To ensure that there are no side effects to treatment

Depending on your pet’s condition, your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests at this time, such as blood tests or radiographs (x-rays).

What Should I Do Between Examinations?

It is important for you to follow your veterinarian’s directions exactly, including giving all of the medications as directed. Many treatments fail because doses of medications such as antibiotics are missed or stopped prematurely. If you have difficulty administering a medication or if your pet shows signs of side effects, such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or pain, consult your veterinarian.

You should not discontinue treatment because it does not appear to be working. Some medications require time to take effect. Also, a medication that is effective in one animal may not be effective in the next. Your veterinarian may need to try different medications, and evaluate their effects, before arriving at the one that is best for your pet. A follow-up examination allows your veterinarian to assess your pet’s response to treatment and adjust treatment recommendations as needed.

What Are the Benefits of a Follow-up Examination?

A follow-up examination is important for the comfort and welfare of your pet. Missed follow-up examinations can result in recurrence or worsening of your pet’s condition. The follow-up examination will enable your veterinarian to evaluate your pet’s progress and modify treatment as necessary to ensure that your pet is healthy and comfortable.


Acetaminophen Toxicity

  • Acetaminophen can be toxic to dogs and cats, but cats are 7 to 10 times more susceptible to acetaminophen toxicity than dogs are.
  • Once swallowed, acetaminophen reaches the blood stream within 30 minutes; toxic effects are rapid and damage the liver and red blood cells.
  • Never give a medication intended for people to your pet unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian.

What Is Acetaminophen Toxicity?

Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and some other related medications that are used to treat pain and fever in people. Unfortunately, this drug can be extremely toxic (poisonous) to cats and dogs. Acetaminophen toxicity occurs when a cat or dog swallows enough of the drug to cause damaging effects in the body.

Acetaminophen is mostly metabolized (broken down and eliminated from the body) by the liver. Some of the substances that are created during this process can have harmful effects on cats and dogs. Cats are at much greater risk of toxicity than dogs because they lack certain proteins necessary for the liver to safely metabolize acetaminophen.

How Does Acetaminophen Toxicity Occur?

Many cases of acetaminophen toxicity in dogs and cats are accidental. A pet may find and chew on a bottle of pills or eat a pill that has fallen on the floor. Sadly, some cases occur because pet owners give medication intended for people to their pets without being instructed to do so by a veterinarian.

Acetaminophen is a drug meant for people. However, there are situations in which your veterinarian may prescribe a specific dosage of acetaminophen for your dog. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s dosage directions very carefully and report any vomiting or other problems right away. Cats are 7 to 10 times more susceptible to acetaminophen toxicity than dogs are. Because cats are extremely sensitive to the drug’s toxic effects, acetaminophen is not given to cats.

What Are the Clinical Signs of Acetaminophen Toxicity?

Once swallowed, acetaminophen is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and intestines and can achieve significant levels in the blood within 30 minutes. The main toxic effects take two forms:

  • Liver damage: One of the substances produced by the breakdown of acetaminophen binds to liver cells, damaging them. Severe damage can lead to liver failure.
  • Damage to red blood cells: One of the substances produced by the breakdown of acetaminophen binds to red blood cells. Once bound, this substance changes hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen) into a molecule that is no longer able to carry oxygen. This means that the blood can no longer supply adequate amounts of oxygen to the body’s vital organs. The altered hemoglobin molecule is called methemoglobin; its lack of oxygen-carrying ability changes the color of blood from red to brown.

Cats and dogs can develop both forms of acetaminophen toxicity. However, cats are more likely to suffer hemoglobin damage while dogs are more likely to suffer liver damage. The main clinical signs associated with acetaminophen toxicity that result from liver injury and an inability of the blood to carry oxygen include:

  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy (tiredness)
  • Difficult or rapid breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Brown discoloration of the gums (a result of methemoglobin)
  • Brown urine
  • Blue gums (known as cyanosis, indicates inadequate oxygen supply)
  • Swelling of the face or paws
  • Shock, collapse, death

How Is Acetaminophen Toxicity Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of acetaminophen toxicity is commonly based on a history of recently chewing or swallowing pills. Your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic testing, such as a chemistry panel and complete blood cell count (CBC), to assess the extent of the damage.

What Are the Treatment and Outcome for Pets Suffering From Acetaminophen Toxicity?

Acetaminophen is absorbed and metabolized very quickly. If you realize right away that your pet has swallowed acetaminophen, vomiting can be induced to remove the drug from your pet’s stomach before the body can absorb it. Another option may be to anesthetize your pet in order to flush out the contents of the stomach. Your veterinarian may also administer a special preparation of liquid-activated charcoal to slow absorption of toxic material from the stomach and intestines.

There is a specific antidote for acetaminophen toxicity. This medication, N-acetylcysteine, limits formation of the toxic substance that damages the liver and red blood cells.  Additional treatments may include blood transfusions, intravenous fluid therapy, and other medications to help support and stabilize the patient.

Acetaminophen toxicity can be fatal. However, pets can survive if the condition is recognized, diagnosed, and treated quickly.

Most cases of acetaminophen toxicity are preventable. Never give medications meant for people to your pet unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian, and keep all medications in the home secured to help prevent accidental swallowing.


Tips for KONG Toys

Having toys for your dog is a key component to having a well-behaved dog.

Puzzle toys, or toys you can stuff food into, are the best kind of toys you can buy for a dog.

Think about all the things a dog CAN’T do when they are working on a treat filled toy.

A dog playing with his puzzle toy won’t be barking, jumping on people, chewing on inappropriate items, or digging holes in the backyard.

You should make sure to always have puzzle toys filled up and ready to go.

Here are some tips to get you started and to help you take full advantage of puzzle toys.

large kong dog toy review


  • Make sure that you mix up the type of filling in your dogs puzzle toys. If you use the same kind each time, they will get bored.
  • Take your dogs kibble, soak it in water, and then put the soggy kibble into the puzzle toy. Take the toy with the soggy kibble in it and put it in the freezer for a few hours. This will make the toy last longer since frozen food is harder to get out.
  • If you are using a Kong (pictured above) squeeze the sides to make it open wider and you can put a larger treat inside.
  • Don’t always fill toys as full as they can get. For example, try smearing peanut butter just on the inside of a toy rather then filling it up all the way.
  • If you want to mix multiple treats and food together for your dogs puzzle toy, put them all in a plastic bag. Snip the corner of the bag and squeeze it easily into the puzzle toy.
  • Don’t just give your dog his filled puzzle toy, hide it in the house and make him go find it!