Great Danes and Kennel Cough (Symptoms + Treatment)

Great Danes are one of the most recognizable dog breeds around. Their huge size and loveable disposition make them ideal family pets, but just like any pet, Great Danes are susceptible to certain illnesses. One common illness is kennel cough, an infection that may be viral or bacterial and affects the dog’s lungs.

great dane taking care of cat
Great Dane dog using a stethoscope on a cat isolated on white background. big dog on reception at veterinary doctor in vet clinic. Pet health care and animals concept

Also known as canine infectious respiratory disease or infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough is an airborne pathogen that causes inflammation of the upper respiratory organs and the throat. Although usually not serious, kennel cough may be more serious for Great Danes that are already immunocompromised, unvaccinated, young, or geriatric.

There are two strains of kennel cough: bordetelle bronchiseptica, which is a bacterial infection, and parainfluenza, which is a viral infection.

In both cases, symptoms of kennel cough typically manifest in the following:

  • Occasional coughs
  • Some sneezing or gagging
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing up white foam
  • Exhibiting a “goose honk” sound while coughing

In standard cases, symptoms usually last about ten days and the condition can be easily managed after a trip to the veterinarian. In some cases, though, symptoms may be more severe, in which case owners should prepare themselves for a more serious prognosis and potentially higher veterinary costs. Here are a few symptoms that may indicate that your Great Dane is suffering from a more severe case of kennel cough:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe congestion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Constant coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite

In either circumstance, if you suspect that your Great Dane has caught a case of kennel cough, it is necessary to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Kennel cough is highly contagious and untreated symptoms in more severe cases may lead to pneumonia or even death.

If you and your Great Dane go to the vet due to a suspected case of kennel cough, the veterinarian will conduct an examination to confirm. Prior to arriving, you should make your veterinarian aware that you suspect kennel cough. This will allow them to prepare their clinic space for intake of a potentially infectious dog. Once you arrive and if kennel cough is diagnosed, your veterinarian will create a treatment plan. After this treatment plan is made, symptoms typically last 5-6 days or less in normal cases.

Causes of kennel cough

great dane eating part of bone
picture of a great dane puppy who is chewing at a pig’s ear

As mentioned, kennel cough is extremely contagious and therefore not all that uncommon. Places where this infection can easily spread quickly include dog kennels, boarding facilities, animal shelters, doggie daycares, dog grooming facilities, veterinary clinics, and even dog parks. Even though dogs are running around in the fresh air at a dog park, all it takes is coming into contact with one infectious dog for yours to be at risk, or for your dog to pick up a stick that was just in another dog’s mouth.

In more confined environments, its important to be aware that bacteria can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours. Additionally, humans can transmit and carry the illness to dogs on their clothes. It can also be transmitted on sticks,

Bacteria can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours, people can also transmit it on their clothes. Disease can also be transmitted on toys, beds, food, and water dishes. An infected dog may bark, sneeze, or cough near another dog, releasing contagion into the air and putting your dog at risk.

How to cure kennel cough

great dane sleeping with owner
Big great dane sleeping under blanket beside boy feet

If you suspect that your Great Dane has kennel cough, the first thing to do is make an appointment with your veterinarian. At the appointment, your vet will ask about your dog’s recent contact history, the length of time your dog has been experiencing symptoms, and gauge their severity. A standard physical exam is performed, which includes listening to the lungs and evaluating the coughing. While there are specific bacterial culture and viral isolation tests available to confirm the diagnosis, in most cases these steps aren’t necessary as kennel cough is fairly easily diagnosed by a professional. Owners may still request them, however.

In most cases, the prognosis for a healthy Great Dane with a case of kennel cough is excellent; there is no need to fear that your beloved pet will become seriously ill. However, if your Great Dane is immunocompromised, unvaccinated or not up to date with its vaccines, young, or elderly, there may be greater cause for concern. In this case, your veterinarian may order blood work and X-rays, especially if pneumonia is a concern. Bloodwork and X-rays can also rule out other diseases such as a collapsing trachea, heart disease, heartworm, or canine influenza.

Other potential infection agents include mycoplasma, canine adenovirus 2 (CAV2), and canine respiratory coronavirus.

If your Great Dane is diagnosed with kennel cough, it will need to be isolated for at least fourteen days, possibly longer depending on the severity of the infection. Upon receiving a positive diagnosis, you may wonder if you are at any risk as the owner of a Great Dane with kennel cough. Although not impossible, it is very rare for a case of kennel cough to spread to humans. However, immunocompromised humans should take some precautions if their Great Dane develops kennel cough, such as by wearing a mask when in the same space as or around your Dane, or enlisting the help of a fully healthy family or friend.

While caring for a Great Dane with kennel cough, you can help relieve some symptoms by running a hot shower and then putting the dog in the steam-filled bathroom. You can also swap out their dog collar for a harness during this time so that their neck area is not further irritated, and canned food is preferable to kibble during this time.

In more severe cases, you can discuss providing your Great Dane with an aerosol therapy and bronchodilators. If your Great Dane has or develops a more serious case of kennel cough that leads to pneumonia, weekly check-ins will be necessary and possibly hospitalization if recovery is not going according to plan.

Cost of treating kennel cough

As with many aspects of pet care, the animal’s size correlates directly to their expense. Considering that the Great Dane is one of the largest canine pets someone could own, owners should be prepared to pay at the higher end of the spectrum when quoted ranges for treatment. For example, medication to treat kennel cough ranges from $75-$200, but that medication amount depends on the size of the dog – so while treating a Chihuahua may cost $75, your Great Dane will probably cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $200. If bloodwork and X-rays are needed, that bill ranges from $200-$500, plus $30-$50 for cough medicine. Should hospitalization be required, costs increase exponentially.

The fact that Great Danes are expensive pets will not come as a surprise to current owners, and prospective owners should make themselves fully aware of the financial commitment they take on when welcoming a Great Dane into a home. Although the breed does not have a very long lifespan, living just 7-10 years on average, the lifetime cost of owning a Great Dane tends to be in the neighborhood of $20,000.

Being aware of the costs associated with Great Dane ownership as well as considering the benefits of investing in pet insurance is one way that prospective owners can be proactive about ensuring that they are able to provide for the long-term health of their Great Dane.

Recovery of Kennel Cough in Great Danes

Great Danes that have confirmed cases of kennel cough have an excellent prognosis when the infection occurs in a healthy Dane. After 3-4 weeks of treatment, your Dane should be back to full health. In certain cases, such as those mentioned previously, it may take up to six weeks to recover.

Regardless of the recovery duration, throughout that period owners should take care to minimize their Great Dane’s contact with other dogs. This is both for their pet’s safety and for the pets of others. It also gives the medications the best chance of working to fight the infection.

How to prevent kennel cough

The first and easiest thing for owners to do when seeking to proactively combat the risk of kennel cough is to ensure that your Great Dane is vaccinated and stays up to date with all recommended jabs. This is especially important for dogs that are in frequent contact with other dogs, such as those that are shown, go regularly to the dog park, doggie day care, grooming, training sessions, or into boarding facilities. And, because Great Danes require more socialization than the average dog, they will likely be spending more time than the average dog in social situations with other canines, making it extra-important that they are up to date on all their shots.  

After being vaccinated for the first time or receiving a booster, a Great Dane (or any dog, for that matter) may exhibit mild symptoms associated with a positive diagnosis of the very infection the vaccine is meant to protect them against. For example, your Great Dane may sneeze, cough, or experience discharge from its nose or eyes. What gives? Well, the vaccine is introducing a little bit of the infection into your dog’s immune system, but in a controlled, low amount that is meant to familiarize the immune system with the infection so that it’s prepared to fight the real thing should the occasion arise.

Thus, these symptoms can be read as the immune system “training” to learn to recognize the infection and fight it, and usually go away on their own after 1-3 days. If you are concerned or wish to learn more about how vaccines work to keep your Great Dane healthy, your veterinarian will likely be more than happy to explain, because more vaccinated dogs mean less serious cases of infectious illnesses.

In addition to vaccinating your Great Dane and keeping them up to date on boosters, owners should choose the public facilities they take their Dane carefully. For example, whenever you are considering using a dog facility that sees a lot of paw traffic such as a groomer, boarder, or doggie daycare center, it’s a good idea to confirm that there is some sort of standard in place to protect the health of the dogs. Managers and directors should be able to provide a list of requirements they have that all dogs must meet before admitted into their facility. Vaccinations and a clean bill of health from a recent veterinary check-up are standard, but some places, particularly boarding facilities or doggie day cares, may also require your pet to be neutered or spayed. 

Ultimately, kennel cough is typically not a serious illness, but like all illnesses, it will require a trip to the vet. If you suspect that your Great Dane may have contracted a case of kennel cough, make an appointment to confirm and then carefully follow your veterinarian’s prescribed health plan to ensure that your Dane recovers as quickly as possible. Additionally, should you receive a positive diagnosis for kennel cough, it would be a courteous thing to do as a pet owner to notify any of the dog owners that your Dane has been in recent contact with, just so that they can be aware and take proactive steps to preserve both their pet’s health and the health of the wider dog community.

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