Diagnosis: Kennel Cough – Symptoms and Treatment

If your dog spends a good deal of time around other dogs, he may be at risk of contracting kennel cough. A common infection also referred to as tracheobronchitis or bordetella, kennel cough is a highly contagious form of bronchitis that affects a dog’s trachea. It is rarely serious, however, and often sorts itself out in one to two weeks.


Kennel cough is caused by airborne bacteria and viruses and is contracted when a dog is exposed to multiple versions of these pathogens. Therefore, dogs that spend time around other dogs, such as in dog shows and kennels (hence the name!) are most at risk.


Basically, your pooch will appear to have a nasty cold. Symptoms usually begin to appear three to five days after exposure. A harsh, hacking cough is the usual telltale sign, along with sneezing and retching, and some dogs will produce a foamy white discharge, your should take your dog to the vet if you see these symtoms. The average length of infection is seven to 10 days. Some dogs may become lethargic when infected, but others can carry on being their active and happy selves, eating, sleeping and playing normally.


According to Ian Buffett, DVM, who runs a mobile service in the Toronto area, the best treatment for kennel cough is to isolate your dog from other dogs and let the infection run its course. If the infection lingers, however, antibiotics are recommended. In some cases, cough suppressants are also prescribed.


If your dog will be spending time around other dogs, try to ensure the space is well ventilated due to the airborne nature of the infection. As well, be sure to keep your dog’s toys and food bowls separate from other dogs. Immunization is available but, because of the multiple pathogens involved, it is impossible to keep a dog fully immunized from kennel cough. “A vaccine will reduce the severity of the illness, if a dog is exposed. It won’t get as sick for the duration of protection,” says Dr. Buffett.

For dogs that are at risk of exposure to kennel cough, vaccination once a year is recommended. In fact, many kennels require proof of vaccination. It is a good idea to vaccinate your dog a few weeks before the potential exposure in order to allow immunity to build up. Dr. Buffett also reminds pet owners that a dog with a strong immune system has a better chance at fighting infection. Optimum nutrition and exercise go a long way in keeping your pet happy and healthy.