Kennel cough? A dog version of the flu?
February 2, 2013 8:36 PM   Subscribe

My friend's dog is hacking / coughing and she'd like to know whether it's serious enough to see a vet. (Obligatory photo of an adorable boxer inside!)

Asking for a friend.

"Anybody know how to tell the difference between a dog with a cough due to heartworms, allergies, heart failure or "kennel cough"? Our 6 y/o Boxer developed a dry, hacking cough suddenly that hasn't subsided in 24 hrs. We initially thought "kennel cough" but he hasn't interacted with other dogs. He is also gagging and drooling. No lethargy and still eating. Any personal experiences appreciated. We are over an hour from an emergency vet clinic and I know kennel cough just has to run its course. I should mention that he doesn't seem to be in pain...still chased atvs today, normal behavior...just sounds HORRIBLE."

I saw the dog in question today (AUGGIE!) and he does have quite a hack going but he was the same friendly guy he's always been, resting his head on my lap for some petting and flopping around like he always does.

Any thoughts?
posted by youandiandaflame to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Short nosed breeds are more prone to kennel cough than others, so I wouldn't rule it out even in the absence of dog-to-dog direct contact. I don't think a trip to the emergency vet is necessary, but your friend should schedule a regular vet appointment for Monday or Tuesday if they can. While it is true that kennel cough is a viral disease and has to run its course, most vets will put the dog on other medication to alleviate the coughing, and oftentimes do a preventative antibiotic to keep any pneumonia from settling in while the lungs/immune system are weakened. Kennel cough has a pretty distinctive gagging cough that sounds like the dog is trying to clear its throat. Regardless, any regular coughing should be seen by a vet.
posted by internet!Hannah at 9:06 PM on February 2, 2013

What a handsome dog!

Given that your friend's dog developed a cough despite not interacting with other dogs, and that this cough has been going on for more than 24 hours, I would get to the vet as soon as possible. One possibility is that there may be a foreign object lodged in his larynx, causing him to hack/cough/drool. Brachycephalic breeds like my dog and Auggie tend to get stuff stuck in their noses and throats all the time.
posted by peripathetic at 9:22 PM on February 2, 2013

"Kennel" cough usually means someone basically choked them (via a choke collar), the same way you or I would cough for a while if the same thing happened to us.

A flu (dogs get most of the same virii we humans get) would last about as long as it lasts in us.

If it keeps getting worse more than 72 hours after it starts (or your dog appears to have trouble breathing), take her to the vet.
posted by pla at 9:25 PM on February 2, 2013

I adopted a rescue dog with kennel cough. The cough was of a dry and hacking nature with no drooling. The drooling and gagging worry me. If you have trouble getting to the emergency vets,at least ring them and get a vets advice on the matter.
posted by wwax at 9:33 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

""Kennel" cough usually means someone basically choked them (via a choke collar), the same way you or I would cough for a while if the same thing happened to us."

Incorrect. Kennel Cough is an upper respiratory infection in canines and can be viral or bacterial in nature.

I vote for vet in a case like this. When a dog is clearly sick, best to get them treated.
posted by cecic at 9:39 PM on February 2, 2013 [10 favorites]

Call the emergency vet and ask their advice. I have done so when in doubt and more often than not am told that it's not an emergency. They're not going to default to telling your friends to bring the dog in if it's not necessary.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:39 PM on February 2, 2013

My dog has had kennel cough a few times. I just scheduled a regular vet visit for right away, not the emergency vet. Kennel cough is a generic term for a hacking cough that can be viral or bacterial. Antibiotics are often given as already mentioned to prevent pneumonia and because there is no easy way to tell which version the dog has. It can take a while to get over. And it can sound pretty horrible, choking/gagging like sounds are normal.
posted by shoesietart at 10:08 PM on February 2, 2013

"Kennel" cough usually means someone basically choked them (via a choke collar), the same way you or I would cough for a while if the same thing happened to us.

Ignore that.

YouTube has lots of videos of what dogs with kennel cough sound and look like – it's quite specific and I wouldn't describe it as "hacking", really. Looking up a few of those videos will aid you in the identification of the cough. For my dog, hacking usually means something is stuck in his throat. Visit your veterinarian first thing Monday morning (most decent vets will be able to get you a last-minute appointment or fit you in without one – if your regular vet won't do that, consider getting a new one).
posted by halogen at 10:50 PM on February 2, 2013

When our dog "hacks" we give him a piece of bread to help him dislodge whatever is bothering him in his throat. If that doesn't clear up the problem we take him to the vet.
posted by xyzzy at 7:02 AM on February 3, 2013

I would like to point out that bordetella ("real" kennel cough) requires a transmission vector, and (non-immune-compromised) humans don't generally count. As the asker explicitly stated, "he hasn't interacted with other dogs", which makes it highly unlikely that this dog actually has bordetella. But by all means, feel free to "ignore that".

I mentioned the choking part because a real live vet - The kind the asker's friend should probably see if the cough continues - told me (well, my parents - 20+ years ago here) exactly that when we took a lab in for a persistent cough. The vet watched that silly ol' bugger strain against his choke collar almost to the point of passing out, stop to catch his breath, then rinse wash repeat. A week after switching to a fixed-length collar, the cough had vanished.
posted by pla at 7:45 AM on February 3, 2013

Bordetalla isn't the only pathogen to cause kennel cough. Also, while the OP's dog hasn't interacted with other dogs directly, it may have come into contact with pathogens indirectly. Dogs do a lot of sniffing and licking where other dogs have been.
posted by shoesietart at 8:42 AM on February 3, 2013

I've fostered lots of dogs with kennel cough (it's a pathogen, not a collar side effect), and lots without. Personally, since his overall demeanor is perky, I would monitor him for 2-3 days to see what happens. If he gets worse in the meantime (coughing more, seeming depressed, seeming agitated), take him to the vet. If there's no change after three days, visit the vet. If he improves, keep watching -- if he gets well, I'd write it off as a fluke thing. If he gets better but starts this again in a week or a month or whatever, I'd plan to visit the vet to see what's going on.
posted by MeiraV at 9:09 AM on February 3, 2013

Despite having no interaction with other cats/animals and never leaving our apartment, my cat caught kennel cough a couple years ago, so it is possible.
posted by urbanlenny at 8:26 AM on February 4, 2013

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