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Kennel Cough

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All about kennel cough

Kennel cough (Canine infectious tracheobronchitis) is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases in dogs. Fortunately, the majority of cases of kennel cough are not serious, resolving on their own within 1 to 2 weeks.

However, as some dogs can develop life-threatening complications from kennel cough, you should take precautions to prevent your pooch from becoming infected with this highly contagious disease.

Kennel cough can be caused by a number of different airborne bacteria and viruses or a mycoplasma (an organism somewhere between a virus and a bacteria). Typically, more than one of these pathogens (disease-causing agents) must bombard the dog at once to trigger illness.

Such a multifaceted attack is most likely to occur when a dog spends time in close quarters with many other dogs. Dogs that attend dog shows, travel frequently, or stay at kennels have a higher risk of developing kennel cough than do dogs that stay at home most of the time.

Symptoms of kennel cough

The primary sign of kennel cough is a dry- sounding, spasmodic cough caused by pathogens that induce inflammation of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (air passages into the lungs). At the end of a coughing spell, a dog will often retch and cough up a white foamy discharge.Some dogs also develop conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the eyelids), rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane), and a nasal discharge.

Dogs affected by kennel cough usually remain active and alert and continue to eat well. But if you suspect your dog has kennel cough, isolate it from other dogs and call your vet.

Typically your vet will make a diagnosis 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 vet may want to perform diagnostic tests such as a complete blood count, chest x-ray, and laboratory analysis of the micro organisms inhabiting your dog's airways. These tests can help determine whether the dog has developed pneumonia or another infectious illness such as canine distemper.

Kennel cough treatment

Immunization can be an important part of a prevention program and is recommended. But since the illness is caused by multiple organisms - making effective immunization difficult - you should focus on minimizing your dog's exposure to the disease-causing organisms themselves.


Don't share your dog's toys or food and water bowls with unfamiliar dogs. And if your dog is in an indoor kennel or show, make sure the indoor area is adequately ventilated so airborne organisms are transferred outside.

If your dog is diagnosed with kennel cough, your vet will likely prescribe an antibiotic to help prevent any secondary bacterial infection and a cough suppressant.

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