Kennel cough

Kennel cough

Kennel cough is an infectious respiratory disease. It is called Kennel cough since it usually appears in environments where a lot of dogs are confined close together, such as kennels. There is no single culprit behind Kennel cough; it can be caused by one of several viruses or by a bacterium named Bordetella bronchiseptica. Sometimes the reason behind Kennel cough is the well known canine distemper virus, the canine respiratory corona virus, the canine parainfluenza virus, or the canine adenovirus. It is therefore important to get a proper diagnosis if your dog develops a cough. The scientific name for Kennel cough is Tracheobronchitis, since it causes inflammation of the upper respiratory system.

Kennel cough is very similar to the disease that we refer to as a “cold” when it occurs in humans, and just like the cold is it usually not dangerous for otherwise healthy individuals. It can however be dangerous for weak dogs and it can develop into pneumonia.  

Kennel cough symptoms

Symptoms of Kennel cough normally manifests 3-5 days after exposure. Kennel cough is an inflammation of the upper respiratory system of the dog and the symptoms can last for 10-20 days. Sometimes the affected dog will develop secondary infections, primarily pneumonia.

Symptoms of Kennel cough:
Coughing, often harsh, dry and hacking
Fever (although many dogs never develops a fever)

Snorting and gagging is especially common after exercise and excitement, or when you gently press the trachea of your dog.

Kennel cough transmission

Both viruses and bacteria capable of causing Kennel cough can spread through the air when infected dogs cough and sneeze. Kennel cough can also spread via contaminated surfaces such as crates and toys, and through direct contact.

Kennel cough prevention and vaccination

Since a wide range of virus and bacteria can cause Kennel cough, it is impossible to give your dog a single shot against it. You can however decrease the risk of your dog getting Kennel cough by vaccinating it against canine distemper, canine adenovirus, canine parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica. A lot of kennels and dog day care centres work against Kennel cough by requiring all dogs to be vaccinated against these diseases before taking them in as boarders.

Keeping surfaces disinfected is one way of decreasing the risk of Kennel cough. This is especially important in facilities where a lot of dogs gather, such as kennels, day care centres for dogs, dog shows, grooming parlours, and similar.

A lot of things can make your dog more susceptible to Kennel cough than normally and by avoiding them, you decrease the risk of Kennel cough.

  • Prolonged exposure to cold.
  • Poor ventilation.
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke.
  • Exposure to heavy dust.
  • Shipping stress.
  • Crowding stress.

Kennel cough treatment

In most cases, Kennel cough will go away on its own in an otherwise healthy and well cared for dog. If the vet knows for sure that the cough is caused by a bacterium antibiotics can be delivered, but they will be useless against all types of virus. If the cough is unproductive, i.e. when nothing is being coughed up, cough suppressants can be used to milder the symptoms.

Kennel cough can open the field for secondary bacterial infections, including pneumonia, and in such cases antibiotics are strongly recommended. Young puppies that have been shipped recently, especially so called pet store puppies, are extra prone to having their Kennel cough developing into pneumonia.

When Kennel cough is caused by a dangerous virus, e.g. canine distemper virus, the scenario is much more severe and extensive veterinary treatment combined with quarantining is necessary.

Virus infections in dogs: (click for more info)
Canine coronavirus in dogs
Canine distemper in dogs
Canine herpesvirus in dogs
Canine influenza in dogs
Canine minute virus in dogs
Canine parvovirus in dogs
Infectious canine hepatitis in dogs
Kennel cough in dogs
Pseudorabies in dogs
Rabies in dogs