Your Local Vet Clinic and Animal Hospital
4213 Calgary Trail NW, Edmonton AB

4213 Calgary Trail NW

Edmonton AB, T6J 5P4

(587) 557-2210

Your Local Vet Clinic and Animal Hospital

What is Kennel Cough

kennel cough

Kennel cough, caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria, the most common being the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium, alongside viruses such as canine parainfluenza virus and canine adenovirus. Kennel cough is named so because the infection can spread quickly among dogs in close quarters, such as kennels, dog parks, and pet daycares.

The primary symptom of kennel cough is a forceful, hacking cough, which often sounds like the dog is trying to clear something from its throat. Other symptoms can include sneezing, runny nose, and in some cases, fever. While it’s usually not serious, kennel cough can lead to more severe conditions in puppies, elderly dogs, or those with pre-existing health issues.

  • Kennel cough is the most common cause of canine upper respiratory tract disease
  • Like a human flu shot, the vaccine protects and lessens severity
  • You will hear a “honking” cough — dry, harsh and non-productive
  • Your dog might also be lethargic and eating poorly
  • There may or may not be nasal discharge
  • It can develop into pneumonia if it gets worse.
  • Kennel cough spreads easily
  • Anti-cough medications can help the dog rest and in some cases antibiotics are needed.

Prevention, exposure and recovery

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD), is a collection of diseases that includes pathogens like bordetella bronchiseptica, parainfluenza virus, herpesvirus, adenovirus and mycoplasma.

It’s associated with close-contact situations such as grooming facilities, animal shelters, competitions and parks. Transmission occurs via droplets released when dogs sneeze or cough, dog-to-dog contact and through contaminated items (door handles, food and water bowls). Typically, the incubation period lasts 2-10 days.

Normally, diagnosis is made with a physical exam and a history of exposure. While tests can identify each possible pathogen, unless something serious is suspected (such as distemper), a specific diagnosis is usually not pursued.

Most cases of kennel cough are caused by viral illnesses, so antibiotics are not warranted. However, in cases where the risk of secondary bacterial infection is high, such as shelter situations, antibiotics may be prescribed. The antibiotic of choice is doxycycline.

In cases where the coughing prevents rest, anti-tussives — such as hydrocodone, butorphanol or codeine — may be prescribed. Anti-inflammatories such as steroids and non-steroidals have been used in the past, but they do not shorten the course of disease, so their usage provides questionable benefit.

Usually the dog will recover within two weeks. In severe cases, however, pneumonia can develop and possibly become severe. Symptoms include labored breathing, a moist cough, high fever and nasal discharge. If pneumonia develops, more aggressive treatment is needed. This can sometimes include hospitalization for IV-provided antibiotics, oxygen therapy and fluids.

Vaccination is critical for prevention, and the vaccines are safe for puppies. Much like the flu virus in humans, a vaccine doesn’t prevent infection. Instead, it can lessen the severity of symptoms (such as the development of pneumonia) and the need for more aggressive, emergency care.

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a lifestyle vaccine available for dogs at least 12 weeks old. It is recommended for dogs that board, visit the grooming salon or play at dog parks. Not every dog may need this vaccine, so you should discuss it with your veterinarian.

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