Kennel Cough or Tracheobronchitis in Dogs
What is kennel cough?
Kennel cough is a broad term often used to describe any infectious or contagious condition in dogs where coughing is one of the major clinical signs. It is also referred to as infectious tracheobronchitis. The term tracheobronchitis describes the location of the infection in the trachea or (windpipe) and bronchial tubes.
Several viruses and bacteria can cause kennel cough, often simultaneously. These include adenovirus type-2 (distinct from the adenovirus type-1 that causes infectious hepatitis), parainfluenza virus, canine coronavirus, and the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica.
Because the infection spreads when dogs are housed together, it is often noticed soon after dogs spend time in kennels, hence the name kennel cough. Several pathogens can cause kennel cough, so it is often referred to as the canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC).
What are the clinical signs of kennel cough?
Clinical signs may be variable. The disease is often mild, though the cough may be chronic, sometimes lasting several weeks. Common clinical signs include a loud cough, often described as a 'goose honk', runny eyes and nose, swollen tonsils, wheezing, lack of appetite, and depressed behavior. Most dogs with infectious tracheobronchitis will cough when the throat is rubbed or palpated or during and after exercise.
"Most dogs with infectious tracheobronchitis will cough when the throat is rubbed or palpated or during and after exercise."
How does a dog get kennel cough?
Kennel cough is very contagious, and dogs can readily transmit it through casual contact, such as sniffing each other when on a walk, playing, or sharing water dishes. Certain factors increase the likelihood of your dog contracting kennel cough, including stress, cold temperatures, exposure to dust or smoke, and crowded conditions.
How is kennel cough treated?
There is no specific treatment for viral infections, but many of the more severe signs are due to bacterial involvement, particularly Bordetella bronchiseptica. Antibiotics, such as doxycycline and amoxicillin, are helpful against this bacterium. Enrofloxacin and azithromycin are also effective but less commonly used due to concerns about developing antibiotic resistance.
Some cases require prolonged treatment, but most infections resolve within one to three weeks. Mild clinical signs may linger for several weeks, even when the bacteria have been eliminated. Cough suppressants and anti-inflammatory medications may sometimes provide relief, though they are not often necessary. Your veterinarian will determine the best treatment methods for your dog.
How can I prevent my dog from contracting kennel cough?
Most vaccination programs your veterinarian will recommend include adenovirus and parainfluenza. Bordetella vaccination is also highly recommended for dogs that are boarded, groomed, or interact with other dogs in areas such as dog parks.
"Bordetella vaccination is also highly recommended for dogs that are boarded, groomed, or interact with other dogs in areas such as dog parks."
How effective are these vaccines?
Immunity, even if the dog has experienced a natural infection, is neither solid nor long-lasting. We cannot expect vaccines to do much better. Since immunity varies with the circumstances, consult your veterinarian regarding specific vaccination recommendations for your dog. Some kennel facilities require a booster vaccination before boarding, and some veterinarians recommend a booster vaccine every six months to ensure maximum protection against this troublesome infection.
How are Bordetella vaccines administered?
Bordetella vaccination is given either by injection, orally, or by the intra-nasal route. Intra-nasal refers to the liquid vaccine administered as nose drops. The oral vaccine is administered directly into the cheek pouch. This allows local immunity to develop on the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and windpipe where the infectious agents first attack and provides more rapid protection against infection than the injectable vaccine.
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