Coughing Conundrum

By Jill Lopez, DVM, MBA

Belle, a two–year–old Shih Tzu, started coughing a few days after her grooming appointment. At first, her owners were not worried, but soon the occasional cough became persistent and then she started sneezing and had a runny nose.

She was definitely sick. Within a short time, several other dogs that had visited the groomer were coughing, too.

Belle’s pet parents took her to the veterinarian. The veterinarian examined her, listened to her lungs and examined her throat. When she applied a small amount of pressure on her windpipe, Belle went into a coughing fit. The vet then took swab samples of her throat and nose and also drew blood. She then prescribed medication that would help curb the signs while they awaited a diagnosis.

What could be causing this cough?

There are many things that could be causing Belle to cough. Some of the pathogens responsible for infectious canine cough include bacteria, like Bordetella, and viruses such as Canine Distemper, Canine Parainfluenza, Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) and Canine Adenovirus Type 2.

How do these pathogens spread?

These pathogens transfer from dog to dog through direct contact with respiratory secretions from an infected dog, just like how a cold or flu transfers in humans. Sometimes contaminated clothing, grooming utensils, or food and water bowls can store and transfer the disease. Businesses like grooming salons are at more risk because there is more potential for contact with the pathogens.

How serious are infectious canine respiratory diseases?

The seriousness of the infectious disease is based on the pathogen. For example, most cases of Canine Distemper are fatal while a majority of Bordetella infections resolve with supportive care. Dog Flu is a disease to be very concerned with, since dogs that are infected with the disease can be contagious for almost a month, and around 20% can have severe signs of illness, including pneumonia.

How can I prevent Infectious Canine Cough?

Prevention is always the best medicine. Fortunately, for most causes of infectious canine cough, there are vaccines available. Groomers and other pet services often will require vaccinations for diseases such as Bordetella, Distemper, and Dog Flu, to make sure they can help prevent the spread of disease in their facility. The American Animal Hospital updated their vaccination guidelines in 2017 and are a great source of reference to establish an appropriate vaccination protocol.

Effective cleaning is another way to prevent the spread of disease in a grooming facility. It is important to clean continuously with the appropriate disinfectants, while observing the appropriate contact time. Washing hands, grooming tables or pads and grooming equipment is also very important.

Tips for Groomers:

Make sure to require the following canine infectious cough vaccinations for your clients, in addition to regular vaccinations:

  • Canine Distemper
  • Parainfluenza
  • Adenovirus Type 2
  • Dog Flu (H3N2 and H3N8)
  • Bordetella

Make sure that the vaccines have time to protect before exposing the dog to other animals. With injectables, full protection occurs 10–14 days after the second booster. With oral vaccinations, full protection is likely expected within three weeks. With intra–nasal vaccines, some can provide protection within 24–72 hours. Check with the vaccine manufacturer to confirm and, when in doubt, give at least a two–week window before you consider the dog protected.

Make sure to establish an effective cleaning protocol. The Heroes for Healthy Pets program—which is a free infectious disease certification program—has great tools including handbooks on effective cleaning. You can visit heroes4healthypets.com to sign up and learn more about keeping your business clean.

All vaccine manufacturers have vaccine efficacy guarantees. If your client’s pet is fully vaccinated and still becomes sick, make sure they contact the manufacturer to report the problem and to learn more about coverage for diagnostic testing and reimbursement for medical treatment. ✂

Established in 2015, Essentials PetCare, LLC provides affordable and accessible veterinary care for dogs and cats. The company’s goal is to expand veterinary care to a greater number of U.S. pet loving families who would otherwise not seek basic and preventative care because of cost. Essentials PetCare believes that no animal should ever suffer or put owners and their families at risk of contracting zoonotic diseases due to affordability. For more information, visit EssentialsPetCare.com and follow us @EssentialsPet.

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