Kennel cough, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is an infectious cough affecting dogs. It is not necessarily related to kennels but the close proximity of dogs in kennel environments encourages its spread, hence the common name. There are many different viruses and bacteria involved in this disease and an affected dog may have one, or many different strains involved.
Kennel cough is spread rapidly through coughing and sneezing, just like the human common cold and flu viruses. Often, there is a viral component which may then lead to a secondary infection with bacteria. In most otherwise healthy dogs, the disease will resolve on its own given time (usually around 7 days). In the very young, old, or those with pre-existing health problems, kennel cough can lead to potentially quite severe complications and further treatment may be necessary.
Dogs with kennel cough may show a variety of different signs:
- a cough is the most obvious, this is often very loud and may sound like something is stuck in your dog’s throat.
- discharge from the nose
- vomiting/coughing up phelgm
- reduced appetite
- not wanting to go for walks
- laboured breathing – if this is the case you should get your dog checked by a vet as soon as possible
The incubation period for kennel cough is around 7-10 days. If your dog has been diagnosed with kennel cough, you should keep him away from other dogs as much as possible until the cough has cleared to help reduce spreading the infection.
How is kennel cough treated?
In the otherwise healthy, adult dog, it may be that no specific treatment is required. Antibiotics are not generally recommended in the uncomplicated case due to the risk of antibiotic resistance. Your vet may prescribe some anti-inflammatories to help soothe your dog’s throat.
In some cases, antibiotics will be necessary to prevent or treat secondary infections. Your vet will be able to decide whether treatment is needed when examining your dog.
Can kennel cough be prevented?
Two of the most nasty strains of kennel cough, the virus Canine parainfluenza, and the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica can be vaccinated against. The Bordetella vaccine (usually known as the ‘kennel cough vaccine’) is always given intranasally whereas the parainfluenza vaccine may be combined with the normal annual booster injection, or administered alongside Bordetella in the intranasal vaccine. These vaccines are recommended for dogs at high risk of infection, for example those in boarding kennels, daycare situations or otherwise in contact with lots of other dogs.
However, it is important to remember that these vaccinations only protect against those particular strains so will not stop your dog getting an infectious cough altogether. They should prevent any cough becoming too serious as, in general, the other strains are less likely to lead to complications.
The intranasal vaccine is particularly unpleasant to dogs due to their sensitive noses so it is important to make the experience as positive as possible by distracting with treats and getting your dog used to having his nose touched.