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I received word that a dog that had visited our facility has been diagnosed with canine infectious tracheobronchitis or kennel cough. There is a lot of confusion about this condition and a lot of people don't recognize it. Often people think their dog is choking on something. Sometimes dogs have a cough that sounds like a goose honk. And sometimes dogs cough up white phlegm and people mistakenly think their dog is throwing up.

There is more confusion, because people think since their dog is vaccinated, that he can't get kennel cough. Actually this is a complex condition that is caused by a number of bacteria and viruses. The bordetella bacteria is often the main culprit, so that is what we vaccinate against. However, manufacturers have to predict what strains are going to be prevalent and they don't always get it right.

Day care and boarding facilities are at particular risk of having this condition spread amongst their population. It is spread through airborne droplets from dogs that are coughing. It can also spread through direct contact when dogs are touching noses and through shared objects like toys or water bowls.

To complicate matters, dogs can start shedding this disease before they show symptoms and after symptoms have disappeared. Some dogs can spread this condition without ever showing symptoms themselves.

To protect our facility against the spread of infectious disease, we have to cover three bases: first we vaccinate. Vaccines trigger an immune response in the body, so it can fight off the pathogens before it makes the dog sick. Second we have to sanitize. We sanitize thoroughly every day. We sanitize water bowls multiple times. We sanitize every surface the dogs come in contact with. Thirdly we have to isolate. We seperate all the dogs that show symptoms. It's important that our clients do the same: if you suspect your dog is sick or has been exposed, keep him at home, so he doesn't pass this on to other dogs.

We instituted our 14 day rule to reduce the risk of the dogs on the ranch getting sick. We ask everyone to wait 14 days after their dogs have visited another day care, boarding facility, grooming facility or dog park. Why a grooming facility? Dogs don't play there? No, but they share the same space and touch the same surfaces and still can pass things along. We also ask everyone who travelled with their dog and has met other dogs or been in spaces shared with other dogs, to also wait 14 days. We don't know what conditions are going around in other parts of the country and we wouldn't want anything brought to the ranch. 14 days is long enough to find out if your dog picked something up.

We can't always police this rule. But since no one wants their dog to get sick, we have to trust each other to do the right thing. If everyone stops for a stop sign we will be okay. But if some people feel they don't have to, there is going to be an accident.

But remember that kennel cough is mostly a nuisance and not a serious condition. If your dog is otherwise healthy, he will recover on his own. Most dogs will act otherwise fine, with the same activity level and a normal appetite. If your dog has compromised immunity, keep an eye out. We want to make sure it doesn't turn into pneumonia. If your dog otherwise seems fine but the cough seems uncomfortable, you can soothe his throat with some honey and coconut oil.

We always want to know what is going on with your dog. Don't hesitate to let us know, in fact, I urge you to let us know. The only way we get a good picture of what is going on, is if everyone gives us information. I will send out another newsletter when I find out more.

Dirk Broersma

Dirk Broersma