The common name ‘kennel cough’ is a term widely referenced by both veterinarians and pet owners and refers to the most common upper respiratory ailment afflicting dogs. You may also recognize other terms for the disease, including Bordetella, Bordetellosis, and tracheobronchitis. These are more technical – and more recent – names for the same infectious disease.
Unfortunately, kennel cough isn’t caused by just one microbe, but typically as the result of infection by more than one organism. Due to the number of factors that can lead to infection, the disease is found worldwide and infects a high percentage of dogs at some point in their lives.
The most common infectious agents found in dogs that lead to kennel cough are parainfluenza virus, mycoplasma, and Bordetella bronchiseptica. Other agents that may contribute to kennel cough include canine herpes, adenovirus type 2, and reovirus. Mild symptoms, especially from the viral infections (such as parainfluenza) will last for roughly six days or less, unless other agents are involved in your dog’s ailment.
As the common name would suggest, the most notorious symptoms of kennel cough include a hacking, dry cough, often followed by retching. This may be accompanied with a watery, nasal discharge. When the case is mild, dogs will continue to eat fairly normally and even remain alert and active. However, in more severe cases, fever, lethargy, and a lack of appetite may also be symptomatic of kennel cough. If left untreated, pneumonia and even death could follow.
Prevention & Treatment
The best way to prevent kennel cough is to vaccinate your pet regularly, which will decrease the risks of your furry friend succumbing to the disease in the first place. Most 5-way vaccinations (given at regular, annual intervals) include a vaccine for Bordetella, which greatly reduces the chance of catching the communicable disease.
However, if your dog has fallen victim to illness, mild episodes will be treated with antibiotics and a cough suppressant to help give your dog a little comfort as he heals.
In more severe cases, antibiotics may not be enough, and veterinary care for the dog may be necessary, especially if the dog has contracted pneumonia.
The name ‘kennel cough’ was coined because this disease is highly contagious among dogs. Therefore, it is essential that, if your dog is going to be socialized in any way, including being boarded for a time, you assure his or her vaccinations are up to date.