Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, also called infectious canine tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respitory disease among dogs.  It is like the dog’s version of the common cold.  If one dog in a household gets it, everyone in the household gets it.

Kennel cough is an inflammation of the trachea and bronchi.  It is so common that most dogs get it at least once in their lifetime.  It is also called Bordetella.

Kennel cough is most severe in young puppies since their immune system is not fully developed.  Old dogs and pregnant bitches also are more vulnerable to infection with this disease.

The symptoms of kennel cough are a dry hacking cough, which is the most common symptom, a honking cough, retching, and watery nasal discharge.  In mild cases, the dog acts normal and eats normally.  In severe cases, the dog is lethargic and doesn’t eat.  This disease can progress to pneumonia, fever, lethargy, and even death in severe cases.  Unvaccinated puppies, young dogs, or immunocompromised dogs are likely to experience the most severe symptoms of this disease.

Most dogs catch this disease from other dogs in a boarding or grooming situation.  This puts them in prolonged contact with a large number of other dogs.

Kennel cough is actually caused by several different diseases.  These include Bordetella bronchiseptica, parainfluenza virus, and mycoplasma.  Other causes are canine herpes virus, reovirus, and the canine adenovirus.  It is generally thought that kennel cough is caused by a combination of these diseases.  It is most commonly caused by the parainfluenza virus, however.  When the parainfluenza virus is the cause, the symptoms are relatively mild and resolve in less than a week, unless one of the other diseases is involved.  It is possible for the dog for the dog to get a secondary bacterial infection which complicates recovery for the dog.

Bordetella is also a common cause of kennel cough.  The initial problems begin three to four days after exposure.  When it is combined with other organisims, such as parainfluenze, it can last up to three weeks.

Diagnosing kennel cough is largely based on the symptoms the dog is having and the history of contact with other dogs.  Dogs will be given a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis.  A swab will be taken from their throat to isolate what exactly is causing the kennel cough so the veterinarian will know how to treat it.

Treatment depends on the severity of the infection and symptoms.  Dogs that are showing mild symptoms might be prescribed cough syrup and an anti-inflammatory to reduce the swelling in the throat.  Otherwise, the disease will be allowed to run its course, just like a cold.

Dogs with severe symptoms might be prescribed a stronger cough syrup, antibiotics, and an anti-inflammatory.  It is possible for a dog showing severe symptoms to develop pneumonia.

While your dog is recovering from kennel cough, it is important to remove his collar so it does not irritate his throat.  Substitute a body harness for the collar for walks.