Post by Dick Palazzo, President, Purr’n Pooch Pet Resorts
Family Owned & Operated Since 1970
There is perhaps no more misunderstood canine disease than what is commonly referred to as “kennel cough” or canine cough. In medical terms, it’s a contagious respiratory disease among dogs, typified by inflammation of the trachea and bronchi. Canine cough, when put in simple terms, is the dog equivalent to the human cold.
It is spread by any one of three infectious agents (parainfluenza, adenovirus or Bordetella). Because of the continued use of the name “kennel cough”, it is widely misunderstood as something dogs inherently catch in a kennel or pet boarding facility. In fact, many veterinarians and WebMD continue to call the virus “kennel cough” often leading anxious pet owners down the wrong path when trying to understand where their dog may have contracted the virus.
I challenge all of us in the pet care industry and veterinary medicine to use the medical term Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD), instead of “kennel cough” because it’s important that dog owners and the public in general be educated on the respiratory disease and its origins.
Canine cough is also an accurate name for CIRD because it describes the syndrome of coughing dogs but does not imply that the disease is caused by a pet care facility. By labeling canine cough “kennel cough”, employees in our industry are constantly working to educate others on the disease. It’s an ongoing issue we face and is very similar to those that were once faced by childcare facilities. Schools and daycares have been successful in educating parents on how illness spreads and today you’ll find hand sanitizer everywhere from the playground to the doctor’s office. But for us, the professionals in the pet care industry, the label “kennel cough” continues to mislead pet owners on the origins of the virus.
What are the symptoms of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD)?
CIRD can show up as a dry, hacking cough and is followed by a ratching or gagging sound. An infected dog may also exhibit a runny nose and sneezing. This disease prognosis without treatment can develop into a fever and breathing problems. For these reasons, early detection on the part of the owner or anyone caring for the pet is important. In general, the incubation period for CIRD is anywhere from 3-10 days and there are millions of strands of the virus.
Why did Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease come to be called “kennel cough”?
While attending pre-veterinary school in the 1970s, I remember reading in medical textbooks that the discovery of kennel cough could be traced back to a time when laboratories, kennels and breeding facilities were boarding dogs in common areas. This started it all and today people are still associating the “kennel cough” with kennels and pet boarding facilities simply because of the name.
How is CIRD contracted?
Typically CIRD is spread from dog to dog in secretion of the eyes, nose, or mouth and by direct contact from infected dog to healthy dog. Sneezing or coughing releases tiny aerosolized droplets carrying the virus to over 20 feet in any direction and spreading ITB to healthy dogs. Viruses can also be carried on hands, clothing, shoes, pet supplies and equipment. It’s crucial to have a healthy facility that creates happy, healthy pets and pet daycare and boarding facilities are leading the pack in taking the precautions necessary to stop the spread of a virus like CIRD.
Much of the literature on “kennel cough” says it has to do with the quality of ventilation when large amount of pets are housed together. Although that is true, the main reason is socialization. Many people take their pets out of the house and bring them to public places such as dog parks, restaurants, hospitals and pet stores. Basically, we live in a more dog-friendly world (thankfully) and our pets socialize more with one another, and thus are more likely to contract the virus.
Most of the time, healthy dogs will pick up the infection through scent because this is the way dogs communicate. You’ll notice the first thing a dog will do when out is drop its head to the ground and sniff around. Dogs can also catch CIRD through the air, as it is an airborne infection. Fortunately, with proper ventilation and by taking precautions like having your dog vaccinated you can lessen your pet’s chances of contracting CIRD. It is also important that when visiting your veterinary office, you inquire about the precautions they take to safeguard your pet’s health while in the waiting room and throughout the building in general.
What precautions are taken at Purr’n Pooch to maintain healthy pets?
At Purr’n Pooch Pet Resorts, the same mechanical contractors that designed and installed Jersey Shore Medical Center’s ventilation system also recently designed our units. It’s rare to find a facility with this ventilation system because many buildings are just not designed for it. Everything we do at Purr’n Pooch is for the comfort and care of our pets and their health and safety from the air systems to our hygienic cleaning.
It is possible that no one will ever get to the bottom of discovering exactly how and where our pets contract this infection. Many of us with children can also relate as we prepare for cold and flu season! Your children will spend more time with friends and classmates socializing indoors and on the playground and sports fields. A cold is inevitable and unfortunately so are those visits to the doctor’s office and many do not have state-of-the-art ventilation systems.
I’ve been working with dogs and cats for more than 45 years and it saddens me to hear the term kennel cough used more often than CIRD or canine cough. My hope is that this will change because as soon as pets are treated and the infection is labeled “kennel cough,” it’s sometimes directed back to the dog’s favorite home away from home – the boarding facility, daycare and grooming salon/spa.
My advice for pet owners is to educate yourself and if you believe your pet has CIRD, please visit your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Please note that all the information provided on the Purr’n Pooch Pet Resorts blog is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Please contact your veterinarian for an evaluation before diagnosing or treating your dog.