Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Dogs

Kennel cough in dogs is an upper respiratory infection caused by bordatella and other viruses. The disease is very common, and most dogs suffer from it at some point during their lives.

Causes of Kennel Cough in Dogs

The disease known as kennel cough often occurs as the result of multiple combined infections. Bordetella bronchiseptica and the parainfluenza virus are two of many infectious agents that can contribute to the development of kennel cough symptoms. Canine adenovirus type 2, reovirus and canine herpes virus can also contribute to this disease.

The most common viral agent that causes kennel cough symptoms is the parainfluenza virus. Cases caused by parainfluenza virus usually clear up in five or six days. Five-way vaccines and kennel cough vaccines can help prevent parainfluenza infection.

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a another common contributor to kennel cough. Symptoms appear between two days and two weeks of exposure. Kennel cough symptoms last about ten days in uncomplicated cases of bordatella infection. If other agents, such as the parainfluenza virus, become involved, the disease could last from two weeks to 20 days.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

The most common symptom of kennel cough in dogs is a dry hacking cough. A watery nasal discharge may be present in cases of kennel cough. In mild cases, dogs remain alert and continue to eat and behave normally. In more serious cases, the following symptoms may develop:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pneumonia
  • Death

Kennel cough occurs most commonly in dogs that have been boarded or come into contact with other dogs. Immuno-compromised animals and puppies are at the highest risk for life-threatening infection.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis is often based on symptoms and on history of recent contact with other dogs. Most vets don't feel the need to perform blood work or to take viral and bacterial cultures.

Treatment varies according to the severity of the disease. In mild cases, antibiotics and cough suppressants can be used. Even when medication is given, however, the dog may still be able to spread kennel cough for up to fourteen weeks after he recovers.

Antibiotic use is more common in the most severe cases of kennel cough. Doxycycline is often used, though there are many choices available. Steroids and cough suppressants are usually not used in treating kennel cough, as these suppress the immune system and can worsen the infection. Bronchodilators or other aerosol therapy can be used in mild or severe cases of kennel cough in dogs.

Even if your dog's kennel cough is mild to moderate, seek veterinary treatment. Most dogs with mild to moderate cases recover quickly. Mild cases can worsen and become severe very quickly. Without veterinary support, your dog is at risk of developing life threatening symptoms and serious secondary infections like pneumonia.

Your veterinarian can help your dog recover quickly from kennel cough without developing serious complications.