COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. — Nikki Abbott got worried when her dog Finnegan started acting different a few months after they got him as a puppy.
“When a puppy is coughing, your heart just stops and you feel so bad and you’re like, ‘Oh, I don’t want this to ever happen,’” she said. “So I was super worried.”
Abbott and Finnegan were far from the only pet/dog-mom duo to experience that this year. With nicer weather and restrictions being lifted, people are gathering at dog parks, and veterinarians say it’s causing a rise in cases of Bordetella, otherwise known as kennel cough.
“It’s very similar to a cold in humans,” said Dr. Lynn Happel, a veterinarian at Eastown Veterinary Clinic. “We do see it somewhat seasonally as people are more active and there’s more interaction with dogs.”
In fact, Dr. Happel says they have seen an increased number of cases this year—more so than usual. Although several viruses and bacteria can cause kennel cough or something similar, the good news is that doctors can vaccinate against three of them.
“We can vaccinate against Bordetella, we can vaccinate against canine influenza, and we can vaccinate against canine parainfluenza,” said Dr. Happel.
Dr. Happel says pet owners should get their animals vaccinated as soon as they’re able and look for signs if they aren’t.
“Decreased appetite, decreased activity level, lethargy, not eating,” she said, in addition to the telltale heavy breathing. “Different than just panting, but actually, you know, an abdominal component to the breathing.”
Dogs can get kennel cough more than once, and only about 5–10% of cases become serious, but the vaccine and other treatments like cough suppressants are rather effective in treating cases.
“Most of these dogs have a mild cough with no other impact to their general wellness, and they get over it on their own in about two weeks,” said Dr. Happel. “For most dogs this is not a serious disease.”
That was the case with Finnegan. Abbott made sure to call her vet right away, who got the dog a vaccine and recommended they keep Finnegan away from other dogs for that two-week period.
“Our vet ended up just vaccinating him,” she said, “and giving him supplements. We have things that we add to his water for his health.”
For more information on kennel cough from American Humane, click here.