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Canine Cough

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Kennel Cough (aka Canine infectious tracheobronchitis & Canine Cough)

1.      What is Kennel Cough?         

2.      What are the symptoms ?

3.      What do I do if I suspect my dog may be infected?

4.      How can I decrease the risk ?       

5.      What is the usual treatment for kennel cough?

6.      How is it diagnosed?                     

1.      Canine infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases in dogs. Fortunately, the majority of cases are not serious resolving on their own in 1 to 2 weeks . The main cause of kennel cough is the airborne bacteria, Bordetella bronchiseptica. Typically, more than one of these pathogens (disease-causing agents) must bombard the dog at once to trigger illness. Kennel Cough can be also be caused by a number of viruses. Clinical cases of Kennel Cough are usually caused by several infectious agents working together to damage and irritate the lining of the dog's trachea and upper bronchi. The damage to the tracheal lining is fairly superficial, but exposes nerve endings that become irritated simply by the passage of air over the damaged tracheal lining. Once the organisms are eliminated the tracheal lining will heal rapidly.


2.      A dog with Kennel Cough will develop a coarse, dry, hacking cough about five to ten days after being infected. It sounds as if the dog needs to "clear it's throat" and the cough will be triggered by any extra activity, drinking water, exposed to change of temperature or exercise. Many dogs that acquire Kennel Cough will cough every few minutes, all day long. They will wretch and sometimes vomit a white foamy looking matter. Their general state of health and alertness are usually not affected, they usually have no rise in temperature, and do not loose their appetite. Some dogs also develop conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the eyelids), rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane), and a nasal discharge. The signs of Canine Cough usually will last from 7 to 21 days and can be very annoying for the dog and the dog's owners. If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, isolate your dog and visit your veterinarian for medical advice. It is always a good idea, though, to have any dog examined if coughing is noticed because some very serious respiratory diseases and even cardiac disease might display similar sounding coughing. Your veterinarian, through a careful physical exam and questioning regarding the dog's recent environment, will be able to establish if the dog's respiratory signs are from kennel Cough or some other respiratory insult.


3.      First and foremost, isolate your dog. Do not take your dog to public places in order to prevent the spread of infection. If your dog has recently been to dog school, boarding or any other place where your dog was exposed to other dogs, notify the correct individuals to advise that your dog is coughing. Call your veterinarian and schedule an examination. When you arrive at the Animal Hospital, keep your dog in your vehicle until the Doctor is ready to see you. At the end of your examination, take your dog directly to your vehicle and return to the clinic to settle your account. This is solely a courtesy to other dogs that may be in the waiting room. If your veterinarian has prescribed antibiotics, be sure to administer the correct dosage and complete the course of treatment even if your dog appears to have recovered.


4.      You don't need to isolate your dog to prevent infection. The best recommendation is to discuss with your veterinarian what combination of vaccines and boosters they recommend. The Bordetella vaccine needs to be administered at least 7-10 days before your dog will have achieved immunity. It won't protect your dog from all bacteria he/she might be exposed to, but it will protect against one of the most commonly isolated pathogens. The Merck Veterinary manual also names canine parainfluenza virus, adenovirus 2 and Bordetella bronchiseptica as primary pathogens that can be given in a combination of an a virulent B. bronchiseptica and a modified live parainfluenza intranasal vaccine is used in puppies and adult dogs and is preferable to parental products when the risk is considered to be significant. Secondly, keep stress to a minimum and good health to a maximum!! Consistent exercise, a healthy diet and a clean environment are always your best defense against disease.  Kennel cough, in Canada and the Northern United States, is prevalent in the spring and fall and cases are almost non-existent once a heavy frost has occurred. 


5.      The causative organisms can be present in the expired air of an infected dog, much the same way that human "colds" are transmitted. The airborne organisms will be carried in the air in microscopically tiny water vapor or dust particles. The airborne organisms can survive hours to days outside the dog.  (The airborne organisms, if inhaled by a susceptible dog, can attach to the lining of the trachea and upper airway passages, find a warm, moist surface on which to reside and replicate, and eventually damage the cells they infect. Even in the most hygienic, well ventilated, spacious dog facilities, the possibility of a dog acquiring Kennel Cough exists. Kennel Cough can be acquired from your neighbor's dog, from a Champion show dog at a dog show, from the animal hospital where your dog just came in for treatment of a cut paw, from the sidewalk where an infected dog walked earlier... Try not to blame anyone or any place if your dog develops Kennel Cough There may have been an infected dog, unknown to anyone, that acted as a source for other dogs. Many dogs will have protective levels of immunity to Kennel Cough via minor exposures to the infective organisms and simply will not acquire the disease even if exposed. Other dogs that may never have had immunizing subtle exposures will be susceptible to the Bordetella bacteria and associated viruses and develop the signs of coughing and hacking.


6.      Many dogs that contract Kennel Cough will display only minor signs of coughing that may last seven to ten days and will not require any medication at all.  Treatment is generally limited to symptomatic relief of the coughing with non-prescription, and occasionally prescription, cough suppressants. If the dog is running a fever or there seems to be a persistent and severe cough, antibiotics are occasionally utilized to assist the dog in recovering from Kennel Cough. It can happen that secondary bacterial invaders will complicate a case of Kennel Cough and prolong the recovery and severely affect the upper airway. Therefore the use of antibiotics is determined on an individual basis. Follow the advice and course of treatment that your veterinarian has prescribed. Don't allow your dog to exercise as this will trigger the cough.


Your veterinarian can typically diagnose kennel cough from a physical exam and history. The cough is very characteristic and can be easily elicited by massaging the dog’s larynx or trachea But if the dog is depressed; feverish; expelling a thick yellow or green discharge from its nose; or making abnormal lung sounds, your veterinarian may want to perform diagnostic tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) chest x-ray, and laboratory analysis of the microorganisms inhabiting your dog’s airways. These tests can help determine whether the dog has developed pneumonia or another infectious illness such as canine distemper.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian. It is only a source of information to provide you with more knowledge about this topic. If you suspect your dog may be infected, call your veterinarian. 

REFERENCE :        Merck Veterinary Manual - Eighth Edition



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