Kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis, is a common infectious condition which causes distressing paroxysms of coughing and can persist for weeks. Despite the name “Kennel Cough” a dog does not have to be in kennels to contract the condition. It is contagious in a similar manner to the common cold, so is easily spread by any dog to dog contact.
Kennel cough is a significant health risk for dogs that may be caused by a range of viruses and bacteria. However, surveys of respiratory disease outbreaks over many years reveal that the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica (Bb), as well as Canine Parainfluenza virus (CPi), are the most significant causes of the respiratory disease. These organisms can cause disease in their own right, but are also seen in combination with each other.
Data from CICADA, a national survey of infectious pet diseases reported by vets suggest there may be at least 65,000 cases of kennel cough seen by veterinary surgeons every year making it the country’s most widespread infectious disease of dogs. However despite the popular name for this disease it appears that more than half of reported outbreaks are likely to arise from day-to-day contact between dogs and not from kennels.
Despite causing the dog an unpleasant cough the condition is rarely serious. Owners often report the dog coughing like it has something stuck in its throat and sometimes vomiting up white froth and foam. In most cases antibiotics are not required, and an anti-inflammatory will be sufficient to keep the dog comfortable while they recover, (usually 2-5 days). They can continue to be infectious for up to three weeks after symptoms have gone. Dogs that are very young, elderly, or have pre existing conditions such as heart disease, may require more aggressive treatment.