Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough)

Most people have heard the term Kennel Cough. This is the common name for a highly contagious respiratory infection seen in dogs. It is also often called Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis as it involves inflammation of the trachea (the major airway) and the bronchi (the larger airways in the lungs). Sometimes it also involves inflammation of the larynx and nose.

As winter arrives our dogs may be spending more time indoors. If they are in close contact with other dogs for example at a kennel, a pet sitter’s home or a doggy day care or training centre they may be at risk of contracting kennel cough this winter. Other ways that dogs may get Kennel Cough include contact with contaminated surfaces like water bowls, food bowls and toys. Dogs socialising with other dogs on walks can also potentially contract Kennel Cough.

Signs of Kennel Cough

The typical signs of Kennel Cough include:

1. A dry hacking cough- this is the classical sign and often the only one present. The cough often gets worse when the dog exercises or is excited

2. Retching or gagging following coughing

3. Sneezing and a runny nose (clear discharge)

4. Some loss of appetite

5. A mild fever is possible

The cough is usually the worst for the first 5 days, but the disease can persist on average 10-20 days. In some dogs, especially puppies and those with weakened immune systems the disease may progress to also involve the lung tissue causing a pneumonia. Signs may then also include a moderate to severe fever, pus containing discharges from the nose, depression, loss of appetite and difficulties breathing.

How to protect against Kennel Cough

Vaccines are available to help protect against Distemper, Parainfluenza, Canine Adenovirus-2, and Bordetella bronchiseptica, some of the main organisms responsible for Kennel Cough. These are all included in your dog’s yearly C5 vaccination. For puppies a course of vaccinations starting at 6-8 weeks of age help provide protection. These vaccination appointments also allow your veterinarian a great chance to perform a full health check on your dog to ensure their health and therefore immune system, is in the best shape possible.

How to treat Kennel Cough

Even with vaccination, much like the human flu we cannot prevent all cases of Kennel Cough. However, if you think your dog has contracted Kennel Cough do not be alarmed. Your veterinarian can usually presumptively diagnose Kennel Cough by a simple exam of your pet. Sometimes, chest radiographs may be advised to assess the severity of the disease or rule out other causes of coughing. Blood work may be indicated in patients who show more severe signs like loss of appetite, a fever or altered breathing. For dogs with coughs persisting longer than 3-4 weeks kennel cough alone is less likely and the underlying cause may need to be investigated.

If your dog has simple kennel cough, then supportive treatment only is usually required. The dog’s recovery may be hastened by good nutrition and hygiene as recommended by your veterinarian. Cough suppressants are sometimes prescribed to control persistent non-productive coughing. Antibiotics are sometimes required especially with signs of bacterial infection like pus in nasal discharges. Cortico-steroids may be prescribed to help alleviate signs. Aerosolization treatments (of saline or antibiotics) may also be helpful in some cases. In most cases hospitalisation is not required except with very unwell patients.

If you are concerned your dog may have contracted kennel cough, are uncertain as to the cause of their cough or wish to speak to us about vaccination please feel free to call us at the clinic on 83730301.


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