Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Rescues & Kennel Cough

One day in early July I stopped by the local humane society. The woman behind the desk was almost in tears. They had confiscated a pit bull puppy that was abused with firecrackers and run over by a truck. Amazingly, the resilient puppy had no broken bones, and they had nursed him to health and were waiting for a rescue group to take him. When it came time, the group didn't have enough room and turned him down. The girl had spent the better part of the day contacting other rescue groups, knowing that if she didn't find him a home soon, chances were good that he would never be given an opportunity in life. She finally found one, but he needed a home for 2 weeks before they could pick him up.
At first I said no, I have puppies at home. But then who could say no to a puppy who had been through so much? So I explained I have an unused outdoor kennel and as long as I picked him up from the vet's from neutering, he was welcome to stay there; it was the best I could do. He came to our home and was a very sweet boy. However, 3 days later his kennel cough kicked in.
Our dogs are vaccinated for kennel cough (bordatella), but through this experience I found that the vaccine covers 3 of the worst strains and that there are 52 strains out there, so it's still very easy to contract. In my research, I also found out that unless it settles deep into the chest and they appear to be sick, that it is best to let the illness run its course. Most of the dogs got a hacking that sounded similar to a cat coughing up a furball the firts day, then coughing for 1-4 days after that, tapering down to nothing. In this time, their attitudes were still good, they were playful and cheerful, just dealing with a hack or cough. One of them, though, had issues with it. He couldn't get a good cough, like he couldn't get enough air in to actually hack it back out. And he became reclusive and depressed, hanging his ears and trying to go outside and hide under the bushes. We got him into the vet as soon as they had an opening and they said he was just shy of pneumonia and we went through a round of antibiotics which did the trick.
Sometimes a dog will contract it and be rushed into the vet who will administer antibiotics for a normal cough. In general, if they are handling it well, they are better off fighting it and allowing the immunity to build. The immunity will last for a year against the same strain.
Unfortunately, the strain we had slowly worked its way through the dogs and I was afraid that the puppies would be exposed and/or contract it, so I kept them a few extra weeks. The good news is that they never got it! Evidently mom's colustrum was stronger! We kept them through their second set of shots, when they finally allowed us to also give the bordatella vaccine. It was important to us that they not get a cough, and if they did, that they weren't given a round of antibiotics unless it was necessary. I'm so glad it wasn't necessary. They are a group of strong, happy puppies with great dispositions.
We had lessons learned. I found some great homeopathic remedies for the cough. I don't regret helping save the puppy's life, but I'll definitely stay out of the humane society while I have little ones at home!

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