Tips for Managing Kennel Cough in Dogs

Kennel cough in dogs causes a constant cough like something might be stuck in the dog's throat.

Kennel Cough in Dogs

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, known as kennel cough, is an upper respiratory problem that's highly contagious in dogs.

There are many different agents that can cause kennel cough. The most common is parainfluenza virus, but there can be other causes, such as:

  • Bordetella Bronchiseptica
  • Mycoplasma
  • Canine Adenovirus Type 2 (CAV-2, not to be confused with CAV-1 that causes canine hepatitis)
  • Reovirus
  • CHV-1 (Canine Herpes Virus)

Kennel Cough gets its name from the fact that most dogs get infected when they're kept in a crowded situation with poor air circulation but lots of warm air, such as boarding kennels.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

The most common symptom of kennel cough is a harsh, hacking cough, which can be mistaken for your dog having something stuck in his throat. Another possible symptom could be a nasal discharge with a watery consistency.

In severe cases, symptoms may include:

The majority of severe cases occur in dogs that have problems with their immune system, and young unvaccinated puppies.

Treatment for Kennel Cough

There are two treatment options depending on the severity of the kennel cough. In the most common form of the disease, antibiotics can be used, but this won't shorten the length of time your dog will be contagious. In addition, bronchodilators or cough suppressants may also be used.

In more severe cases, where the dog is running a fever, is not eating or is showing signs of pneumonia, antibiotics are often used. The most common ones are doxycycline, a tetracycline antibiotic, or trimethoprim-sulfa, a combination antimicrobial drug. Steroids and cough suppressants are not usually recommended because of the risk of reducing the efficiency of the immune system with steroids and the need to clear extra fluid or mucous in pneumonia patients.

Bronchodilators and aerosol therapy can also be used. In moderate to severe cases, a veterinarian should be consulted because a severe case of kennel cough could turn into pneumonia, which could be life threatening if not treated in a timely manner.

A head collar or harness is recommended, instead of a regular neck collar, because pressure on your dog’s throat and trachea can make coughing worse.

How to Prevent Dog Kennel Cough

The best way to prevent kennel cough is to keep your dogs, especially young puppies, away from other dogs. If being around other dogs is unavoidable, the next best option is to have your pet vaccinated. The best vaccine to use is an intranasal vaccine containing parainfluenza and Bordetella. An intranasal vaccine creates localized immunity and can be used in puppies as young as three weeks old. Don't give an intranasal vaccine as an injection because an abscess could occur.

Keeping an eye on hygiene can also help prevent kennel cough, so thoroughly clean and disinfect dog beds, cages, food and water bowls on a regular basis.

Risk to People with Compromised Immune Systems

Kennel Cough was once thought to not be a human health risk, but recent studies show that one of the agents that causes it, Bordetella bronchiseptica, may cause disease in people with compromised immune systems and young children. Healthy adults don't appear to be at risk.