Kennel Cough in Dogs

Kennel cough, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is an infectious and contagious disease of the dog’s airways. Read all about symptoms and treatment of kennel cough in dogs here.

Kennel cough can be caused by many different viruses and bacteria in dogs. The two main pathogens are the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. The disease is very contagious and occurs mainly in dog gatherings and in stressful situations.

The viruses responsible are referred to as primary viruses because they damage the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract and thus facilitate the colonization of bacteria. The pathogens are widely spread by coughing and ingested by inhalation. After the colonization of the mucous membranes, the virus multiplies locally. That is enough to trigger the disease.

How Dangerous is Kennel Cough for Dogs?

Kennel cough is often mild and heals after about two weeks. However, it becomes more dangerous if there is a bacterial secondary infection and bacteria settle on the already damaged mucous membranes and/or the dog’s immune system is weak. In these cases, the disease is more severe and lasts longer, especially when pneumonia is involved. Sick, old, and young dogs are particularly at risk.

Symptoms of kennel cough in dogs

The incubation period for kennel cough varies from two to even 30 days. The first symptoms of kennel cough are symptoms of a cold, especially a severe cough, watery nasal discharge and tonsillitis.

If the disease progresses more severely or if there is a secondary infection, fever, purulent inflammation of the airways, purulent discharge from the nose and eyes or pneumonia can occur. The dogs lose their appetite and their general condition is clearly disturbed. The illness can last for many weeks.

Diagnosis and treatment of kennel cough in dogs

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from kennel cough, you should see a veterinarian immediately. Kennel cough is very contagious. The vet will thoroughly examine your dog and take a saliva and/or blood sample. An infection can be detected in the laboratory using a PCR or antibody test.

There is no specific medication for kennel cough. The dog is usually given an antibiotic against the bacteria and its symptoms are also treated, for example with eye ointments, fever reducers or anti-cough medication.

While your dog is sick, you should avoid contact with other dogs to prevent infection.

Prevent kennel cough in dogs

There is a vaccination against kennel cough. This is useful if your dog has a lot of contact with other dogs. For example, vaccination against kennel cough is usually mandatory when staying in an animal boarding house. Even if he attends a dog school or is kept with many other dogs, vaccination is worth considering.

Vaccination against kennel cough usually protects primarily against the pathogen CPiV 2. It is often administered as a combination vaccination together with vaccines against other infectious diseases. In spite of vaccination, infection of the dog cannot be completely ruled out, but the course is usually milder. The basic immunization against kennel cough is carried out from the eighth week of life (first injection). A second injection is necessary around the twelfth week of life, after which there is an annual booster vaccination.

For even better protection, there is also the option of vaccinating the dog nasally against kennel cough and thus protecting it against the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. This makes sense if your dog has a particular risk of infection due to the way it is kept. Ask your veterinarian for advice on whether they recommend this vaccination for your dog.

You can also prevent kennel cough in your dog by ensuring good hygiene in your dog’s sleeping and feeding area and by cleaning its toys regularly. You should also protect your dog from moisture and cold.

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