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Matthew Sisk: Kennel cough is no laughing matter
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A one-eyed dog with a cough walks into a bar.

No joke. This is the history I get from Lemmy’s owners the next time I see them.

Lemmy was going for a walk at a park with his family when he started coughing. One fit resulted in Lemmy coughing himself off balance, stumbling into the handrail beside the walking path and tumbling down a small grassy hill.

He immediately jumped up with no shame or embarrassment and trotted back to his humans. They then headed on down the path.

Still, the cough has stuck around for the past four days. And the noise is beginning to keep the family awake at night.

I try to be an optimist, but Lemmy is older now. A strong coughing fit followed by a possible collapse is scary to me. Cardiac disease, lung disease and even cancer can cause this type of episode.

Luckily, an exam of Lemmy relieves my worries. His cough is dry and nonproductive. His lungs sound clear. His heart and pulses are typical for normal health. And his temperature is normal.

But every time he gets excited to jump up and give me his trademark handshake, he honks. Yes, Lemmy is doing a goose impression, especially if I put light pressure over his trachea in his neck. He even will hack up a bit of mucus. 

A bit more history taking reveals Lemmy goes to the park regularly and so do other, thankfully, friendly dogs. I suspect Lemmy has infectious tracheobronchitis, or kennel cough

Rarely scary, kennel cough is a syndrome characterized by an upper respiratory viral infection and a secondary bacterial overgrowth. It’s often a nuisance, but rarely worse than a week or two of dry coughing.

Still, Lemmy is older. I don’t want him to be a rare case that leads to pneumonia, so I treat him.

I think his cough caused him to step in the direction where he’s missing an eye, and he tripped against the rail. Still, he should be watched closely. Dogs with serious diseases can still contract kennel cough coincidentally.

Time may tell.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at