Diagnosing Kennel Cough in Puppies

Kennel cough is an upper respiratory disease that can be easily contracted by unvaccinated puppies who are around other dogs. Kennel cough is highly contagious, so it's important to avoid exposure before your puppy is vaccinated.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

As the name indicates, the main symptom of kennel cough, also referred to as bordello, is a dry, hacking cough, which often has a "honking" sound to it. Persistent coughing may lead to retching, and nasal discharge may also be present. Puppies with mild cases of kennel cough will still eat, drink and play.

However, in more serious cases, symptoms can also include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, pneumonia and possibly even death in immuno-compromised or very young puppies.

Prevention of Kennel Cough

The easiest way to cure kennel cough is to prevent it. There is no cure to kennel cough. Like a cold, it basically has to run its course through your puppy's system. However, vaccinations are available to prevent the spread of kennel cough. These vaccinations are recommended every six months but aren't needed as often if your dog is not frequently boarded.

If you take your dog to places where there are lots of other dogs, such as groomers, boarding facilities or dog parks, be sure to vaccinate regularly. Do not take your puppy around unvaccinated dogs until he is old enough for this vaccination.

Diagnosis of Kennel Cough

Because many cases of kennel cough aren't severe, many owners don't seek veterinary treatment. If your puppy has a cough, it is likely caused by an upper respiratory infection, most of which fall under the kennel cough category.

Official diagnosis of kennel cough is usually done with bacterial cultures or blood work. However, many veterinarians won't go through these measures to diagnose the disease. More often, your veterinarian will do a physical examination by rubbing the larynx to see if it causes a cough and ask about exposure to other dogs.

If your dog frequents areas that are highly populated with dogs, your veterinarian will likely diagnose kennel cough without further tests. If your dog is coughing mucous, further tests may be done to rule out other illnesses, such as parvovirus, which is more serious, especially in young puppies.

Treatment of Kennel Cough

Because kennel cough usually just has to run it course, mild cases don't require treatment. For a puppy, your veterinarian may recommend pediatric Robitussin or another mild antibiotic. Bronchodilators and cough suppressants may also be useful.

For more severe cases, antibiotics are usually recommended. Cough suppressants and steroids are usually avoided because they prevent the proper drainage necessary for your dog to heal. Bronchodilators still may be recommended.

You can also help break up the congestion in your dog by placing a vaporizer near his bed or the area where he spends the most time. In place of a vaporizer, try running hot water in the shower and allowing your dog to hang out in the bathroom for about 20 minutes in the steam.

Kennel cough is not a serious illness, but it can be dangerous to young puppies. It is easily prevented with a vaccination.