Kennel Cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) is a highly contagious infection of the upper airways. The condition is transmitted via coughing and sneezing. Despite the misleading term, the infection does not solely occur in kennels. Theoretically any given dog is susceptible, who is in regular contact with other dogs. In rare cases, kennel cough may lead to a certain type of bronchtitis.
Initial symptoms of kennel cough usually appear between the third and the tenth day after infection. They consist of loud, dry, barking coughs that can be triggered by pulling on the collar. The coughing occurs in sudden attacks that can persist for an extended period. Sneezing and choking also occur. Some dogs develop a clear or slimy nose discharge. In some cases fever and loss of appetite might occur as well. The general condition of the dog is usually not impaired and the dog shows normal appetite. Varying with the severity of the disease the symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks. The disease might persist for several weeks even when treated because some pathogens react differently to the administered medication.
This disease can be caused by some viral and bacterial agents. In many cases, it is a combination of bacteria (often "Bordetella bronchioseptica") and viruses (often "canine Parainfluenza virus"). The transmission is realized by droplet infection (sneezing and coughing). The infection is promoted by an impairment of the dog's immune system which results from stress situations. Such stress factors can for example be parasite infestation, change of habits (change of food or environment after move), cold or wet weather.
The diagnosis is in most cases simple and can be determined mostly from an extensive conversation. Simple cases proceed in uncomplicated manner and heal on their own within up to two weeks. For more severe cases, in case of development of nose discharge, fever, cough and choking attacks not relieving, there are different types of treatment. Often, antibiotics, medication against cough, expectorants, fever reducing products alone or in combination are administered. Measures for strengthening the immune system are also common, which can be achieved for example by administration of echinacea. In particularly severe cases, in case of suspicion of pneumonia or in case of a heart disease, further clinical examinations need to be performed.
In general, the veterinarian should be consulted at next opportunity and in case of severe development of the symptoms as soon as possible. The patient should immediately be separated from other dogs and cats, also at your home, in case more than one pet (dog or cat) is living in your domestic home. In such a case, always all animals should be treated, even when no symptoms appear. Announce your consultation in the veterinarian practice so that provisions can be made there which will prevent an infection of other animals. Any dog that is brought into boarding kennels during the holidays or otherwise comes into contact with many foreign dogs should get a kennel cough immunization. The immunization shall at the latest be made one week prior to the start of the stay so that it may protect the dog. After expiration of the protection, a booster injection is to be made, in case you would like to renew the protection. In case a dog comes down with kennel cough, it requires much calm. The resting area of the dog should be warm, the air however not too dry and under no circumstances sticky. Additionally, the resting place of the dog should not be located in draft. In general, factors which trigger the cough, such as efforts or excitement, should be avoided. In Germany there is a combination vaccine which covers most of the causative organisms of kennel cough. Additionally, a nose vaccine is available. The vaccination is a little bit more complicated and the protection is only related to one of the bacterial causes (Bordetella); that one, however, is to be considered as the most important one. The protection is already effective a few days after the vaccination. The vaccination can be made within the course of the basic immunization, but is controversial since the immunization protection frequently fails. Your veterinarian will certainly advice you.