Kennel Cough is known by several names: Bordetella, Bordetellosis, canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD), and canine infectious tracheobronchitis. It is highly contagious to dogs, and is the most common canine upper respiratory problem in the United States, though it is found throughout the world. It is a complex disease which can involve several pathogens that when present simultaneously, can act together to heighten the severity of the disease. Kennel cough outbreaks are most commonly seen in shelters, kennels (including boarding) and training programs where multiple dogs are housed.
The most common pathogens that can cause kennel cough include the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium, parainfluenza virus and mycoplasma. It is thought that reovirus, canine adenovirus type two and canine herpes virus can contribute to the disease too. While any one of these can cause symptoms of kennel cough, most cases diagnosed are the result of more than a single organism. During the past several years it has been found that canine respiratory coronavirus and a subspecies of Streptococcus equi have also been associated with kennel cough.
If occurring alone, signs of a Bordetella bronchiseptica infection are seen between two days and two weeks after exposure. Symptoms last about ten days, but after the infection has been solved the affected dog can still shed bacteria for another six to fourteen weeks, and can pass the infection on to other dogs. Kennel cough can affect both domestic and wild dogs, so you may want to consider vaccination if you live in an area with foxes, coyotes or wolves.
A dog with kennel cough may have a watery nasal discharge, but the most common symptom is a hacking cough, as if your dog is trying to cough up something. It may be followed by dry heaves. I have personal experience with this, and listening to my dog cough was reminiscent of a goose honking. If your dog does not have a severe case of kennel cough they will still be active and alert. Symptoms in more severe cases include: pneumonia, fever, lethargy and no appetite. It can be severe and cause death, though these cases tend to occur in puppies that have not been vaccinated or dogs that have compromised immune systems. If your dog contracts kennel cough, it is suggested that a harness or head collar should be substituted for their regular collar, as pressure on the trachea and throat can worsen the coughing.
While bacterial cultures, blood work and viral isolation may be conducted to isolate the pathogens, a veterinary diagnosis can usually be made based on the recent exposure to other dogs and the symptoms involved. Depending on the severity of the attack, there are several forms of treatment for kennel cough. A mild form may be treated with antibiotics, cough suppressants or a bronchodilator. It should be noted that this does not lessen the length of time that an infected dog can pass on the disease. In the case that a dog is showing signs of pneumonia, running a fever or not eating, antibiotics are prescribed. Aerosol therapy may also be prescribed. If your dog is showing signs of pneumonia, get them to the vet immediately; if left untreated you could lose your canine companion.
Some protection against parainfluenza virus is offered by a vaccine that protects against “kennel cough” or 5-way vaccine (which covers canine distemper, hepatitis, adenovirus cough, parainfluenza and parvovirus). While these vaccines can help, they may not keep your dog from contracting kennel cough. Not exposing your dog to puppies or other dogs is the best protection for kennel cough. If this is not an option, you may want to consider vaccination. Intranasal vaccines, which are effective, are only recommended for higher risk animals due to possible side effects. Some veterinarians suggest vaccinating a dog for kennel cough before boarding or training where the dog may come in contact with other dogs. Talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating your dog for kennel cough if you are concerned.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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