This page is intended to help each of you better understand the symptoms and epidemiology of what we commonly refer to as “kennel cough” and explain our standard practices here at The Tail Haven designed to mitigate and minimize any potential spread of such pathogens among our guests.
What IS “Kennel Cough”?
While “kennel cough” is often described as (and believed to be) a single disease caused by a specific virus, this is actually not the case. Kennel cough is a term used to describe a broad range of very common upper respiratory infections in dogs, caused by many different pathogens (not just one), which all have similar symptoms. These symptoms can appear as a harsh, hacking cough, which can be dry or produce a foamy, white saliva, or alternately, dogs may display a gagging type behavior which commonly leads people to think their dog is choking on something, or has something “caught” in its throat. Nasal discharge or gunky eyes can also be a sign of infenction.
Confusion around what “kennel cough” is has been perpetuated in part because for years veterinarians, as well as those of us in commercial pet care service industries, have commonly referred to the Bordetella vaccination as the “kennel cough” vaccination. This is only partially true.
The reality is that while the Bordetella vaccine does protect a dog from getting an upper respiratory infection from the infectious bacteria Bordetella, it does not protect against the other numerous pathogens that can cause other types of respiratory infections with the same symptoms. Other pathogens that can cause the symptoms of “kennel cough” can include viruses such as canine distemper, canine parainfluenza, canine adenovirus ty 2, canine influenza, canine herpesvirus, canine reovirus, canine respiratory coronavirus, and canine pneumovirus. Additionally, symptoms of “kennel cough” can also be caused by other bacterial infections (other than Bordetella) such as Mycoplasma, Streptococcus, and Chlamydophila.
As you are all aware, The Tail Haven does require regular vaccinations for all guests, including updated Bordetella vaccines every 6 months, in addition to the cleaning protocols described in the section above. All of these efforts, however, do not guarantee complete protection for your pup or the other guests in our care.
Tail Haven Protocols
For those of you with pups currently in our care, the following measures are our standard practices for mitigating the spread of kennel cough within our facility. The following steps are what you can expect to see happen if your pup were to display symptoms while in our care:
- Any dog showing symptoms of a cough or respiratory distress are immediately separated from group play and placed in quarantine within a separate part of our facility. Essentially, all of our staff are trained to separate dogs at the first sign of symptoms. This means if a dog coughs, gags, hiccups, or sneezes even once, then they are placed into quarantine for further monitoring.
- From here they can be monitored to determine if symptoms persist or worsen.
- All owners of dogs removed from regular services to be placed in quarantine are contacted immediately to discuss the symptoms observed and to set expectations of care for the remainder of your pet’s stay.
In addition to our quarantine practices, The Tail Haven also maintains regular cleaning protocols designed to eliminate potential pathogens of all types which inevitably walk through our doors every day. Namely, everything in our facilities is sterilized with a 10% bleach solution multiple times per day. This includes our crate rooms, yard spaces, yard equipment, kennels and enclosures, dishes, and anything else your pup is likely to come in contact with. These are the standard measures taken to maintain a clean and sanitary environment for the health and wellbeing of all our guests as well as our staff on an every day basis.
I realize the next two questions many of you will be asking are:
“But if this is the case… then how can this happen?” and/or; “But my dog was vaccinated… so how can this happen?”
Both of these are excellent questions, and both are typically best addressed by helping people better understand what “kennel cough” actually is.
The good news:
The good news is that most dogs with upper respiratory infections have various types of self-limiting disease – in other words, most incidences of “kennel cough” resolve with little or no treatment. It is our recommendation to consider having your dog checked by a veterinarian if they do become sick or begin to show symptoms. Your vet should be able to discern how sick your pup is and speak to what treatment (if any) may be recommended. Sometimes cough suppressants and/or antibiotics may be helpful on a case-by-case basis.
The bad news:
The bad news is most cases of canine upper respiratory infections are highly contagious. While our cleaning measures here at The Tail Haven are highly effective at mitigating the spread of disease through direct contact with physical surfaces, many of the pathogens which cause kennel cough are airborne – which is what makes kennel cough so contagious.
Incubation period times can make kennel cough particularly tricky to stay ahead of in an environment such as ours. Every individual can respond differently to exposure, and the incubation period (the time between exposure and any noticeable signs of infection) can range anywhere from two to three days up to as long as 14 days depending on the pathogen.
Whether you are boarding with us or taking your dog out and about around town, exposure to kennel cough can be difficult to manage.
What to do if potential exposure:
- Please keep a close eye (and ear) on your pup and consider proactively limiting their exposure to other dogs for a few days to see if they develop symptoms.
- Let our facility know if you believe your pup may have been exposed or have had symptoms of coughing or gagging.
- If your dog does develop symptoms, they are most likely contagious, so please limit their exposure to other healthy animals and please notify our facility before returning for future services.
Feel free to contact us or reach out to our front desk if you or your family have any questions or concerns.