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Kennel Cough in Dogs

Kennel Cough ArticleVacation season for people is kennel cough season for dogs. To help protect your dog from this highly contagious disease, make preparing your dog for kennel cough season part of your pre-vacation plans.

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough or infectious tracheobronchitis (now called Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease) is a highly contagious disease that causes inflammation ("-itis") of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchial tubes (the airways leading from the trachea to the lungs).   In addition, kennel cough can affect the larynx (voice box) and sometimes spreads to the nasal passages, lower airways, and lungs.  Kennel cough is caused by a combination of viral and bacterial infections.  Canine parainfluenza virus is the most common virus isolated from dogs with kennel cough.  Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common bacteria isolated from dogs with kennel cough.


What are the signs of Kennel Cough and how is it diagnosed?

Dogs with kennel cough commonly have a honking cough made louder and more high-pitched by a swollen and inflamed larynx and airways.  Some dogs will cough so hard that they will hack up some white foamy mucus.  Other signs of an upper respiratory infection—runny eyes and nose, reduced appetite and energy—may be present as well.  In severe cases, the trachea is so inflamed that any increased pressure, from tugging on a leash attached to a collar, breathing more rapidly when exercising or excited, to having the throat palpated during an examination, will produce the coughing behavior.  Diagnosis of kennel cough is based on these classic symptoms in conjunction with a history of having been exposed to other dogs 4-10 days prior to showing clinical signs of infection.


How is Kennel Cough treated?

Since kennel cough can progress to a fatal bronchopneumonia in puppies and chronic bronchitis in debilitated adults or senior dogs, it is normally treated with a course of antibiotics.  The antibiotics serve to shorten the course of the infection and help prevent bronchopneumonia, a more severe infection that affects the lungs.  If the cough is affecting your dog's comfort or keeping your dog or you up at night, your Westgate Pet Clinic veterinarian may also prescribe a cough suppressant.  Reducing your dog's activity level and interactions with other dogs can help prevent coughing episodes due to excitement as well as the spread of this disease. 



What can be done to prevent Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is highly contagious from dog to dog and can be spread by direct or indirect contact with respiratory secretions.  Even casual contact, greeting another dog on a walk, playing with a dog at a dog park, or sharing water bowls, can spread kennel cough.  Crowded areas with poor air circulation, warm air, and dogs under stress such as animal shelters, boarding kennels, and even training classes, make the spread of kennel cough more likely.  Fortunately, there are vaccinations that make your dog less likely to contract a serious case of kennel cough.  A vaccination for parainfluenza virus is part of the standard DHPP (distemper/parvovirus combination) vaccination and intranasal and injectable Bordetella vaccinations are available at Westgate Pet Clinic.  The Bordetella vaccination is recommended for dogs who are boarded, groomed, or interact with other dogs on walks or in areas such as dog parks.  For best immunity, the intranasal Bordetella vaccination should be given at least 5 days prior to boarding.  Vaccination will not prevent the disease, but will reduce the severity of clinical signs to a more manageable level.  While the Bordetella vaccination is labeled as a one-year vaccination, dogs with high exposure rates to kennel cough may need to be vaccinated once every six months.

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