Most people who have a dog in their family have heard the term ‘kennel cough’. Despite this fact, very few people know what this term actually means, unless their dog has had it. Kennel cough is the common name for canine infectious tracheobronchitis or Bordatella, and it is a highly contagious respiratory infection among dogs.
Most dogs contract the disease when they have recently been to a boarding kennel or the groomer, or in a dog show or dog agility event. Any time your dog is around a large group of other dogs, the possibility of their being exposed to kennel cough exists. Kennel cough, or infectious tracheobronchitis, is characterized by a dry, ‘honking’ cough, and sometimes it seems as though your dog has something stuck in their throat. It is caused by several different species of bacteria or viruses, or a combination of more than one of these.
Infections with the following organisms frequently occur concurrently to create a case of kennel cough:
- Bordetella bronchiseptica (bacteria)
- Parainfluenza virus
- Adenovirus type 2
- Canine distemper virus
- Canine influenza virus
- Canine herpesvirus (very young puppies)
- Mycoplasma canis (a single-cell organism that is neither virus nor bacterium)
- Canine reovirus.
Young puppies and dogs with compromised immune systems frequently get the sickest from a kennel cough infection, and in some cases it can progress to pneumonia. Most healthy adult dogs get better on their own after coughing for a week or two, much like when humans get a common cold. It is diagnosed by a veterinarian mainly based on the history of your pet (have they been exposed to other dogs recently, or are more than one dog in the household coughing), and also their physical exam. Most dogs with the infection will cough or gag readily when the trachea, (windpipe) is pressed on lightly.
Treatment of the disease typically involves antibiotics, or if the pet is getting better on their own by the time they come to the vets office, we will usually do nothing more than wait it out. For dogs that are going to be boarded or groomed on a regular basis, we recommend that they be vaccinated against kennel cough. If you suspect your dog might have kennel cough, or would like your dog to be vaccinated, please let us help you.
Below is a link to more information about kennel cough, including short videos of what different types of coughing look and sound like.