Stay on top of canine cough

13 May 2022

The Veterinary Council of New Zealand (VCNZ) is reminding dog owners to keep an eye out for symptoms of canine cough in their pets, as the virus is having a resurgence across Aotearoa. 

The clinical name for canine cough (also known as kennel cough) is Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) or Infectious Tracheobronchitis. The symptoms of this highly contagious respiratory disease can include your dog having a loud and high pitched cough, that sounds like there is something stuck in their throat or a goose honk; loss of appetite; low energy; retching or hacking; and nasal discharge. Coughing can linger for several weeks.

VCNZ Professional Advisor Seton Butler says the outbreak of canine cough in Aotearoa could be due to more dogs socialising during the recent school holidays, as a result of COVID-19 restrictions easing. 

He says the best way to minimise the risk of your dog catching canine cough is to make sure they receive their annual vaccinations. Symptoms in vaccinated dogs are also less severe, if they do contract the illness. 

“Your dog will benefit from getting an annual vaccination, and also seeing a veterinarian regularly. By taking your dog to see a veterinarian, you’re building that relationship like you do with your own GP. They get to know your pet and can tell when something isn’t quite right.”

Seton says canine cough can be tricky to manage because it is both a bacterial and viral disease. It spreads easily between dogs through sniffing; sharing water bowls; and coughing and sneezing. If your dog is unwell, it is important to keep them at home and away from other dogs. If the symptoms aren’t improving or getting worse, you should take them to the vet.

“Canine cough is not COVID-19, but there are some similarities in how it’s managed such as isolating and getting vaccinated,” Seton says. “It is especially important to get your dog vaccinated if they have an upcoming stay in a boarding kennel.”

“You can also call the kennel in advance to check how they manage the risk of canine cough, such as using fans to circulate air and cleaning down common areas. You may want to ask if the kennel has had any canine cough cases recently, and if so, see if a friend of family member can look after your dog while you’re away.”

“Planning ahead will help you do your best to protect your dog,” Seton says.