GARDENING AND PETS
QMy old boy is a border collie and he is now 12 years old. He developed a terrible chesty cough last week, and the vet says it is Kennel Cough. I’m worried it is something more, as he hasn’t been into a kennel for years. Have you any advice for me please? Pete, Newtownards
APoor old boy! Sorry to hear he isn’t well Pete. I cannot be sure of course without examining him, but I can share with you that in Bangor over the last three weeks we have seen dozens of cases of a nasty kennel cough, so there is every chance that he may have caught it just out on his usual walks.
More properly known as Canine Cough, Kennel Cough is an umbrella term of any contagious cough in our pet dogs: there are several viruses and bacteria capable of initiating a nasty upper airway irritation, with coughing and sneezing.
Characteristically, affected dogs may honk like a goose, or sound like a sixty-a-day smoker! The windpipe (trachea) becomes very inflamed and irritated, such that even light pressure from a collar and lead, or cold air from breathing in outside air on a walk will trigger a huge paroxysm of coughing. In severe cases, there can be a pneumonia secondary to the infection: thankfully such cases are rare.
Your vet may have treated him with an antibiotic and something to lessen the irritation. The really good anti-tussive medications have all been withdrawn now — all we have is the codeine-type that people take, and they are very poor in my experience.
Honey licked off a spoon can help, as can a low dose of corticosteroids (low dose because we must not risk any immunosuppression as it is an infection after all). If he does not respond in 4-6 days then do please take him back for a chest X-ray — there are other causes of cough, some of which are very serious.
Check his worming is current too — we do see lung worm cases in North Down and Ards — and they can look distressingly like Kennel Cough.
So best be safe and worm in case (use a good wormer because some over-thecounter wormers don’t kill lung worms).
I would urge dog owners to consider vaccinating against Kennel Cough now — this is a nasty outbreak. It’s best to prevent issues than wait for them to happen. Craig is a partner in Cedarmount Veterinary Clinic, Bangor (cedarmountvets.co.uk). Send your pet queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Craig can only respond to questions through this column, and these answers cannot substitute for treatment decisions based on a full history and clinical examination by your vet.