CANINE Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, or bordetella bronchiseptica, is caused by a pattern of viral and bacterial infections. This disease most commonly affects dogs in a kennel situation. Although the disease is usually self-limiting and will subside on its own, puppies and immuno-compromised adult dogs are at risk of developing pneumonia. The duration of the kennel cough infection can last up to a few weeks.

Kennel Cough in dogs will stimulate a coarse, dry, hacking cough about three to seven days after the dog is initially infected. It sounds as if the dog needs to "clear it's throat" and the cough will be triggered by any extra activity or exercise. Many dogs that acquire Kennel Cough will cough every few minutes, all day long. Their general state of health and alertness will be unaffected, they usually have no rise in temperature, and do not lose their appetite.

The signs of Canine Cough usually will last from 7 to 21 days and can be very annoying for the dog and the dog's owners. Life threatening cases of Kennel Cough are extremely rare and a vast majority of dogs that acquire the infection will recover on their own with no medication. Cough suppressants and occasionally antibiotics are the usual treatment selections.

Clinical Signs

The most common clinical sign of kennel cough is a harsh, dry, hacking cough. In some dogs, this cough is accompanied by vomiting (usually phlegm only), decreased appetite and depression. If a secondary bacterial infection is present, a nasal discharge may also be evident.


Your veterinarian can diagnose kennel cough based on a physical examination and a history of exposure. In cases where there has been no evidence of exposure, your veterinarian may recommend x-rays or blood work to rule out other causes of coughing.s


In mild cases, your veterinarian may recommend only that the pet be kept in a warm, slightly humid and draft-free environment. It is wise for your pet to avoid undue stress or excitement. Avoid any collars and leashes which place pressure on the trachea and can aggravate the cough. In more severe cases, such as those exhibiting a nasal discharge, antibiotics may be necessary. Occasionally, veterinarians may prescribe antitussives for dogs that cough incessantly and cannot rest or eat.

Although an intranasal vaccine is available for use, it is not customarily prescribed by all vets. This vaccine is recommended for pets which are routinely kenneled, or which are to be showed or boarded. The duration of the protective effect is debated.

The reason this disease seems so common, and is even named "Kennel" cough, is that wherever there are numbers of dogs confined together in an enclosed environment such as a kennel, animal shelter, or indoor dog show, the disease is much more likely to be spread.

Even in the most hygienic, well ventilated, spacious kennels the possibility of a dog acquiring Kennel Cough exists. Kennel Cough can be acquired from your neighbor's dog, from a Champion show dog at a dog show, from the animal hospital where your dog just came in for treatment of a cut paw... Try not to blame the kennel operator if your dog develops Kennel Cough shortly after that weekend stay at the kennel! There may have been an infected dog, unknown to anyone, that acted as a source for other dogs in the kennel.

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