By Dr. Becker
Kennel cough, which is also called infectious tracheobronchitis or Bordetella, is a very common upper respiratory infection in dogs.
The condition can be triggered by several different viruses and bacteria, but the most common trigger is the presence of both the parainfluenza virus and the bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica.
Symptoms of Kennel Cough
Generally speaking, if an otherwise healthy dog suddenly begins coughing, it's usually due to an infection in the form of some type of kennel cough, virus, bacteria, or a combination.
A sudden dry hacking cough, sneezing, snorting, retching, gagging, or vomiting in response to very light pressure to the trachea, or a spasmodic cough when a dog is excited or exercising – these are all common symptoms of kennel cough. Nasal discharge may be present, and sometimes there can also be a fever.
Symptoms typically occur 2 to 14 days after exposure in mild cases of kennel cough. Dogs usually continue to eat and remain alert.
When the condition is more serious, dogs can become lethargic. They can lose their appetite. Pneumonia can develop. And in the worst-case scenario, death can occur.
Severe cases of kennel cough primarily occur in immunocompromised dogs or in very young puppies. It's rare to lose a dog with a competent immune system to kennel cough.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Diagnosis is made by observing one or more of the symptoms listed above, often coupled with a history of the dog having spent time at a boarding facility, puppy mill, or shelter.
Bacterial cultures, viral isolations, and bloodwork can be performed to identify the specific pathogens causing the exact type of kennel cough the dog has. Some vets take x-rays, which can show bronchitis.
Kennel cough symptoms usually last between 10 and 20 days and can recur during periods of stress. Most cases resolve without medical intervention, so I don't automatically recommend treatment. And certainly, antibiotics are not immediately warranted. I always prefer to let a dog's body heal itself naturally.
Complete recovery from kennel cough can take up to three weeks in healthy dogs, and twice as long in older patients or in dogs with underlying immunosuppressive conditions. Puppies can also take a bit longer to recover.
Since a serious episode of kennel cough can result in pneumonia, if your dog doesn't start to improve on her own within about a week, or if the cough becomes progressively worse, it's important to make an appointment with your vet to be on the safe side.
I also recommend seeing a vet if you have a puppy with symptoms that go beyond the typical symptoms of kennel cough. Let's say you have a puppy whom all of a sudden has a change in breathing patterns, has difficulty breathing, stops eating, or has a markedly diminished energy level – these are all signs you should visit your vet.
When can I bring my dog’s back to the Winkler Collar Club?
Please wait 14 days after your dog stops showing any signs up kennel cough to bring them back to the Collar Club
How can I prevent my dog from catching Kennel Cough?
There is no way to guarantee that your dog will never contract Kennel Cough. Anytime/anywhere your dog is in contact with other dogs you run the risk of them becoming infected.
What will happen if you notice my dog may have Kennel Cough and they are already at your facility?
We will immediately quarantine your dog and contact you to come to pick up your dog