All Pets Veterinary Clinic
Infectious tracheobronchitis or kennel cough, as it is commonly called, is a very common
disease that affects the respiratory tract of dogs. Since it is easily spread via the
air, it is usually a problem in places where there is a high number of dogs. Such places
include, boarding kennels, shelters, groomers, obedience classes, etc. This article
will discuss the common causes of kennel cough as well as the signs, diagnosis, treatment,
and prevention of the disease.
Cause. Kennel cough is not caused by any one specific bacteria or virus. In
most cases there is the involvement of a bacteria and a virus. Viruses that have been
known to cause kennel cough include canine Adenovirus-2, Parainfluenza, canine distemper
virus, canine Herpes virus, and canine Reovirus. The bacteria involved is most often
Bordetella, but can be E. Coli or Klebsiella, as well as others.
Recently, there have been outbreaks of canine influenza or canine flu in several states.
Canine flu can often be confused with kennel cough, especially in the early stages of
of disease, since they can have similar signs. For current, up-to-date information
on canine influenza,
Signs. The most common sign seen is a dry, hacking cough. It may sound as if
the animal is choking on something. Depending on the severity and progression of the
disease, the affected dog may also be lethargic or depressed, not eating very well, have
green or yellow nasal or ocular discharge, and even have a fever. Pneumonia can often
times be a serious complication of kennel cough.
Diagnosis. Often times a good physical exam and the past history of the dog can
provide a fairly accurate diagnosis of kennel cough. Sometimes it may be necessary to
do bloodwork, cultures, radiographs, and other advanced diagnostic tests.
Treatment. For the most part, kennel cough is a self-limiting disease. This
means that it will generally go away on its own. Certain cough medications may be given
to stop the cough, as long as the cough is non-productive. In most instances, dogs are
put on antibiotics to help to prevent a secondary bacterial pneumonia from occuring.
In advanced or complicated cases of kennel cough, additional supportive treatment is
Prevention. There are three major things that can be done to prevent your dogs
from contracting kennel cough. First of all is vaccination. Most of the distemper
vaccinations on the market are combination vaccines that vaccinate for the viruses
most commonly involved in kennel cough. There are also several vaccines available for
Bordetella, the bacteria that can cause kennel cough. All puppies should receive a
series of distemper vaccines, every three week, from age 7-8 weeks to 16 weeks. All
dogs should be boostered annually after that. An annual Bordetella vaccination is
recommended for dogs that will frequently be exposed to other dogs (boarding, obedience,
grooming, etc.). Secondly, if there is an outbreak, sick animals should be isolated
away from other dogs, since it is spread so easy. And thirdly, in buildings that house
a lot of dogs, careful cleaning and good sanitary measures should be practiced.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not hesitate
to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions regarding your pet.
Karen Blakeley, DVM, MPH
31 October 2005