The condition commonly known as “Kennel Cough” is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases that dogs can contract. The disease is not serious in most cases, however, and often resolves itself after one to two weeks. The accepted medical term for kennel cough is tracheobronchitis, indicating a form of bronchitis that affects the dog’s trachea.
Kennel cough can be caused by several airborne bacteria and viruses. It is generally accepted that most cases of kennel cough are caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica but it has also been associated with the canine distemper virus (CDV) and canine parainfluenza. It is the general consensus of the veterinary medical community that in order to cause the illness, an animal must be virtually bombarded by multiple versions of these pathogens at one time. For this reason it is dogs that spend a lot of time around other dogs that are most at risk for the disease. Dogs that participate in dog shows or spend a lot of time in kennels are the highest risks for kennel cough.
The primary symptom of kennel cough is a dry, spasmodic cough which is caused by the inflammation of the dog’s trachea and bronchi. Coughing spells will often result in the dog coughing up a white and foamy discharge. Some dogs will also develop conjunctivitis – an inflammation of the membrane that lines the eyelids. Nasal discharge may also be present. In effect, the dog appears to have a very nasty cold or flu. As stated above, the disease is rarely serious and almost never life-threatening. Still, if you have seen any of these symptoms or have reason to believe that your dog has or has been exposed to kennel cough, you should consult your vet immediately.
Your vet will be able to diagnose kennel cough with a physical examination and medical history. The cough associated with the ailment is very characteristic and a simple massage of the dog’s throat can usually cause it to cough on cue. In some cases, such as if the dog is depressed or feverish or expelling a yellow or green discharge, the doctor may require additional diagnostic tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) and laboratory testing of microorganisms in the dog’s airway. These tests will help the doctor rule out other infectious diseases such as influenza, pneumonia, or canine distemper.
Immunization can help prevent kennel cough and is recommended. When kenneling your dog or traveling it may be required before your dog will be admitted. Effective immunization can be difficult, however, because the disease can be caused by so many different pathogens. Active prevention on your part can be accomplished by not allowing your dog’s toys or water and food bowls to be accessed by unfamiliar dogs. If participating in dog shows make sure that the area is well ventilated to assist with the expulsion of airborne pathogens.
Kennel cough is treated with antibiotics in most cases. Antibiotics will help prevent any secondary illnesses from developing while the dog gets over its case of kennel cough.