By Dr. Avery Gottwalt
If you’ve ever had your dog keep you up all night with a hacking cough, you may have already experienced the discomfort that kennel cough can cause. Kennel cough, or canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is an infectious upper respiratory condition that usually causes a loud, hacking cough and is most often associated with boarding or other dog-dense areas (think dog parks, daycare, etc.). We have been seeing an uptick in kennel cough recently, likely because people are travelling often and therefore boarding their dogs more. Here are some answers to some questions you may have about this disease.
What causes kennel cough?
Many organisms can cause kennel cough, some of them bacterial and some viral. Most cases of kennel cough are caused by several organisms, not just one. Some of the organisms we see are Bordetella bronchiseptica (bacteria), Parainfluenza virus, Adenovirus type 2, Mycoplasma canis, and occasionally Canine influenza virus.
What are symptoms I should watch for?
Typically, patients will have frequent coughing fits, but will otherwise feel normal- eating and drinking well, normal attitude. Mild cases typically take 7-14 days to resolve, and often resolve on their own. However, cases can progress to pneumonia depending on the agents involved and if the patient has underlying health concerns. In this case, the patient may have fever, lethargy, inappetance, and even trouble breathing. Due to the wide range of clinical effects, we always recommend coming in to see your veterinarian so that they can assess the severity of the illness and listen to the lungs.
How is Kennel Cough treated?
Just as the symptoms have a wide range, so too can the treatments vary. If the patient is bright and their lungs are clear, no medications may be necessary. If it is severe and there is concern about secondary bacterial infections taking hold, antibiotics may be prescribed. Keep in mind, however, that antibiotics may not always decrease cough as viruses may be the cause.
How can I prevent this disease?
Vaccinating your dog yearly with the Bordetella vaccine is a good place to start, but does not always prevent the disease because it is only one of the many organisms that can start. If your pet boards frequently or is around a lot of other dogs often, we also recommend vaccinating against canine influenza. Limiting contact with dogs that are coughing and sneezing is also important.
My dog got the Bordetella vaccine but still got kennel cough- why is that?
Since kennel cough almost always involves several agents, a dog may still get it despite having the vaccine, as that only protects against one organism in the respiratory complex. However, the vaccine is still helpful since Bordetella bronchiseptica is still very commonly isolated in dogs with kennel cough.
If you have any questions about kennel cough or vaccination, just let us know!
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