Welcome to a series of posts that focus on our fur family and their health.
One of the biggest worries about leaving a dog in kennels when we are away on business or holiday is that risk that they might contract kennel cough.
This is an airborne infection, which is highly contagious and the disease got its name because it thrives in places where dogs interact with each other closely. A dog can however catch the infection from contact with just one dog or with its toys, bedding or body fluids.
The official name is Canine infectious tracheobronchitis but is also referred to sometimes as fungal lung. As with humans it is a viral or bacterial infection with the added complication of mycoplasma which is a combination of both. Usually a dog will fight off a single attack. However, when it is in the vicinity of many dogs either in a kennel environment or at a dog show it will be subjected to a number of different bacteria or viral attacks and it will not have the immunity to fight them off.
Most dogs these days are protected by vaccinations from an early age but puppies are very susceptible either due to their immature immune systems being unable to cope with the onslaught or because they are too young to have been fully immunised. Also, viruses mutate very quickly and even a current vaccine may not counteract its ability to infect your dog.
What are the symptoms you should look out for?
If your dog is infected it will develop a dry hacking cough which is very similar to the human reaction to infection in the lungs. The airways and bronchi will have become inflamed and mucus will form causing the cough reflex. At first you might suspect that they have eaten something that is caught in their throat especially as they can often retch up a white foamy discharge at the end of a coughing fit. They might also have a watery nasal discharge, much the same as we do when we have a cold.
Many dogs with a mild infection also maintain both their appetite and their activity level and it may be a number of days before you notice a marked difference in their behaviour. One of the symptoms that is quite easy to identify is when collar pressure when you walk your dog causes a coughing fit. You can also press gently on the dog’s trachea in its neck and if this causes the cough reflex you should take the dog to the vet immediately.
If the dog is unable to fight off the infection on its own it will develop into a full-blown bronchitis with a thick yellow or green discharge from the nose and wheezing sounds.
Your vet will take blood tests and swabs to determine the exact type of virus or bacteria that has infected your pet and will then treat it appropriately. It will be useful for your vet if you have a recent history of the dog’s movements and contacts.
Most healthy dogs will recover on their own without the intervention of antibiotics, which is preferable. However, do take the advice of your vet and do not leave too long before taking your dog to the surgery. When recovering, like humans, they will need plenty of fluids, rest and also a diet that is rich in nutrients.
How can your dog avoid infection?
If you are out for a walk do not let your dog share a strange dog’s toys. If they already know each other they will have built up immunity to each other’s germs and it should not be a problem.
If you have more than one dog they also will have built up immunity but you should not let strange dogs share your pet’s food and water bowls.
If you do have to put your pet in a kennel or they are in a confined space at a show then make sure that there is plenty of ventilation and airflow.
Check with any kennel to make sure that they have procedures in place to examine vaccination records of their guests and also take your own bowls for food and water. It is better to leave your pet with a kennels that has been referred to you by someone you know and two references is better than one.
I was lucky to have two amazing families that looked after Sam when I travelled back and forth every six weeks to Spain – and I do prefer finding a home that a pet can go to or someone who will come and stay in our home. We are blessed with family and friends who have been very generous with their time and enjoyed a weekend break for themselves.
Your dog needs a healthy diet as we humans do and these days you need to be careful about the dry food you are feeding your pets. There has been a great deal of press lately about the protein content of many dried foods and also the other ingredients that could cause more harm than good. I personally am not a fan but I do understand that for convenience it is easier to store dry food and to use on a regular basis. I do however advise against using only dry food. The manufacturers will tell you that you should not mix both dry and wet food because too much protein will cause kidney damage. However, if there is only a very small percentage of protein in the dry food you are using, your dog which is a carnivore, will be missing out on essential nutrients. If you are going to combine the two forms of food then check the labels and reduce the dry food so that the combined amount does not go over the recommended daily protein for your dog’s size.
I used a 20/80 rule for our dog as I do for our own diet. As I have mentioned before I am old school and believe that animal’s digestive systems are better suited to a more natural diet. Dry food is convenient and the more expensive varieties do have added nutrition but if used, it should be only 20% of the diet with 80% made up of protein, fibre in the form of rice, vegetables, fruit such as cranberries and other berries, some cheese and suitable bones etc and you can find out more about that in last week’s post, including the fact that by 2022 it is expected that the industrially produced pet food industry will be worth $73 billion worldwide.. that is the amount that pet lovers will spend! Allergies and pet food contaminants
There are some natural food producers that have excellent and very healthy canned, frozen and fresh alternatives to commercial dog food, but if you can prepare it yourself it is much healthier and a much safer way to ensure your dog stays fit.
Remember – to check out any kennels that you dog is going to be sleeping in.
©2021 Sally Cronin
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: Sally’s books and reviews
Thank you for dropping in today and your feedback and questions are very welcome.. thanks Sally.