Take Bruno, for example. He looked the picture of health when he bounded into my surgery, eagerly sniffing the treats on the counter, but his owner was quite bleary-eyed as she explained how she’d been kept awake by his coughing. “He was chewing a stick on the Downs yesterday,” she elaborated, “and I’m sure he’s got a bit stuck in his throat.”
Bruno kept trying to lick me as I felt the glands in his neck, but as I ran my hands over his windpipe he broke into a paroxysm of coughing, and I could well understand how his mum had missed out on her slumber. But his chest was clear and his temperature normal.
It turned out he’d recently come back from kennels and I was pretty sure his cough was infectious. We talk of kennel cough, but in reality, infectious bronchitis, to give it its proper name, can be picked up anywhere dogs are together – grooming parlours, daycare centres and even vets, so if you suspect your dog has the problem it’s often helpful to wait outside until the vet calls you in to avoid spreading it further. Many cases such as Bruno’s will respond well to anti-inflammatory medication but occasionally, antibiotics will be needed if your pet is unwell or has a fever.
A vaccine is available against some of the causes of infectious bronchitis and while it’s not 100 per cent effective, it can help to reduce the signs of coughing and may be needed in kennels so it’s worth checking before you board your dog. The vaccine is in the form of drops given up the nose, which can be a challenge for some patients, so ask your vet for advice.
I’m pleased to say that Bruno made an uneventful recovery, and he maintained his appetite throughout, but then he is a Labrador!