“Kennel cough” is a highly contagious respiratory disease of dogs. Dogs with “kennel cough” suffer from paroxysmal cough (coughing fits). Most dogs contract “kennel cough” in situations where large numbers of dogs come into contact with each other, such as pet stores, animal shelters, grooming facilities, dog shows and boarding kennels. Like the common cold in humans, the organisms responsible for “Kennel cough” are spread from dog to dog by sneezing and coughing. “Kennel cough” can also be spread by fomites (kennel staff, cages, food and water bowls).
This disease is usually mild and self-limiting although, on rare occasions, the disease can progress to bronchopneumonia. A dry, non-productive cough is the most common clinical sign of “Kennel cough”. Occasionally, some dogs will gag up foamy respiratory secretions and appear to be vomiting. The cough is often made worse by excitement, exercise and pressure on the neck. There may be discharge from the eyes and nose as well.
There are many organisms that have been isolated from dogs with “kennel cough”. The three most frequently isolated organisms are canine parainfluenza virus, canine adenovirus type 2 and Bordetella bronchiseptica, which are bacteria. In general, the viruses alone or in combination with B. bronchiseptica are responsible for the majority of cases. These organisms initially colonize the mucosal lining of the upper respiratory tract, leading to the cough. Secondary bacterial infections of the irritated mucosa are also common. The severe form of the disease is usually a result of mixed infections in unvaccinated puppies, usually from shelters or pet stores.
Infectious tracheobronchitis is usually diagnosed based upon your pet’s history as well as clinical signs and x-ray exams. Additional tests may be necessary to rule out other causes of chronic cough. Valley Fever, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, heart disease and Heartworm disease may all manifest as a chronic cough.
Treatment of Infectious tracheobronchitis varies depending on the severity of the disease. Antibiotics, cough suppressants and anti-inflammatory drugs are usually prescribed. A typical case usually resolves in two to three weeks but in some cases, treatment must be prolonged.
Yearly vaccination is the best way to prevent “kennel cough”. Most yearly vaccines contain parainfluenza virus and adenovirus type 2. Intranasal vaccine for Bordetella bronchiseptica is very effective although not for a full year. For this reason, we recommend the intranasal vaccine be given every six months if your dog is kept at boarding facilities or frequently groomed. Intranasal vaccines provide surface protection (where bacterial and viral colonies form) and become effective about two days post vaccination.