ago, if your dog came down with a “cough,” he was simply diagnosed with
Kennel Cough. Any upper respiratory
problem in dogs was automatically put into that category.
Recently the ailment has been given a few new names. Your
dog’s coughing and hacking may now be diagnosed as “tracheobronchitis,”
“canine infectious tracheobronchitis,” “Bordetellosis,” or “Bordetella.”
Whatever name the ailment is given, IT IS HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS in dogs!
It knows no geographic barrier and a vast number of dogs will, at one
point or another, in their life become infected.
are many different agents that contribute to the disease process.
The most common agents are parainfluenza, Bordetella bronciseptica and
mycoplasma. In addition, it is
suggested that canine adenovirus, reovirus and the canine herpes virus also may
contribute to the disease. Even
though any single of these organisms can produce symptoms of “kennel cough,”
most cases are a direct result of more than one organism listed above.
The most common “virus” of kennel cough is the parainfluenza “virus.” It will cause
mild symptoms that last less than 6 days as long as there is no other bacterial
involvement. Unfortunately, that
usually is NOT the case, as multiple bacteria is most often times present.
However, there is good news! Most
5-way vaccines and 'kennel cough' vaccines offer some protection against this
most common “bacteria” isolated
from the disease is the Bordetella Bronchiseptica “bacteria.”
The clinical signs of this bacterial infection occur three to four days after
exposure, and if uncomplicated with other agents, will last around 10 days. Be
aware however, that after you dog is no longer showing any clinical signs,
he will continue to shed the bacteria to other susceptible dogs for as
long as 6 to 14 weeks. The
intranasal kennel cough vaccine will protect your dog against this type of bacteria.
It is not unusual to see Parainfluenza and Bordetella
together in infectious tracheobronchitis.
When both agents meet, they create a disease that normally lasts from
By far, the most common symptom of Kennel Cough
is a dry hacking cough! It may be
accompanied by “retching” or as some call it, “hacking” or
“honking.” Some dogs will
experience a watery nasal discharge. In
mild cases, dogs will usually continue to eat, be alert and active.
Dogs that are “boarded” out where they are kept in confined quarters
with other dogs have a higher incidence of contacting kennel cough.
Severe cases may see the symptoms progress.
If you see lethargy, fever, and inappetence, consult your vet
immediately, as complications resulting in pneumonia could very well develop.
Severe cases have known to cause death.
The majority of the severe cases occur in immunocompromised animals, or
young unvaccinated puppies.
Veterinarians typically diagnose Kennel Cough
based on the reported history of symptoms and history of recent exposure to
other dogs. While bacterial
cultures, viral isolation, and blood work can be performed to verify individual
agents of the disease, due to the
characteristic nature of the symptoms, these tests are not usually performed.
In the uncomplicated form of the disease,
antibiotics are NOT prescribed. If
the dog is alert, with a good appetite and only has the “cough,” the disease
is sometimes left to simply “run-its-course” not unlike a human who has a
cold. Treating the mild case does
not shorten the length of time the dog can spread the disease.
Occasionally, prednisone will be prescribed to reduce the severity and
frequency of the cough. It is also
used to make the dog more comfortable. Bronchodilators
or cough suppressants may also be used.
A friend’s two dogs just went through a bout
of Kennel Cough. She found that
soaking the kibble and hand feeding a little bit at a time seemed to help her
dogs with swallowing and lessened the “coughing and hacking” during
mealtime. She also massaged their
head, down the back of their neck, and between the shoulder blades.
She indicated this seemed to “relax” them more than anything.
She monitored their temperature, and kept an eye on their water intake to
make sure they did not dehydrate. She
administered Children’s Musinex DM at the rate of 1 teaspoon 4 times per day.
In more severe (complicated) cases where the
animal is not eating, running a fever, or showing signs of pneumonia,
antibiotics are often used. The most common ones are tetracycline or
trimethoprim-sulfa. There are
however, many other choices available. Steroids or cough suppressants are not
usually recommended because of the risk of immunosuppressive with steroids and
the need to continue to clear extra fluid or mucous in pneumonia patients.
Bronchodilators and aerosol therapy can be used. In moderate or severe cases,
veterinary care should be instituted, as the resultant pneumonia could become
life threatening if not treated properly and promptly.
Vaccination and prevention
The intranasal vaccine containing both
parainfluenza and Bordetella is the best protection against Kennel Cough. Intranasal vaccines create
localized immunity that greatly reduces the incidence of clinical signs and
illness. Be careful though, as
some dogs will develop mild signs similar to tracheobronchitis when given this
vaccine. Symptoms could last several
days. Also, vaccinated dogs may
“shed the virus” which in turn may cause other dogs to become mildly
infected. The “shedding” usually
lasts less than 72 hours.
After your dog is vaccinated, it takes up to 4
days for dogs to develop protection. Therefore,
vaccinate AT LEAST 4 days prior to a dog show, boarding, etc.
Also, try to isolate your recently vaccinated dog from other dogs for
that same time period. This
way you will protect your dog from becoming infected by other dogs, and protect
those dogs from becoming infected by yours.