Summary

Kennel cough is a contagious respiratory disease of dogs that is caused by a group of bacteria and viruses. The disease is also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis and canine infectious respiratory disease. Bordetella bronchispetica and Mycoplasma spp. are common bacteria associated with kennel cough. Canine parainfluenza virus and canine influenza virus are the most common viruses associated with the disease.

Other bacteria or viruses that may be involved in kennel cough include canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus type 2, canine herpesvirus, canine respiratory coronavirus, canine reovirus, canine pneumovirus, and Streptococcus equi zooepidemicus.

Symptoms and Identification

Symptoms vary from one dog to another. Some dogs may only experience mild symptoms such as sneezing or occasional cough. Young puppies, unvaccinated pets, and dogs that are immunocompromised (e.g. pets on high doses of prednisone) may experience more severe symptoms. These may include symptoms associated with pneumonia, such as fever, trouble breathing, constant coughing, severe congestion, and not wanting to move around or eat and drink.

The most common kennel cough symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny eyes & nose
  • Cough that sounds almost like a goose’s honk

This classic “goose honk” cough may appear as though the pet is trying to cough or hack something up, and they may spit up phlegm or mucus afterwards. Symptoms of kennel cough typically only last about 10 days, with gradual improvement seen after that time.

Diagnosis is often made based on the symptoms and pet’s history. Kennel cough is spread in respiratory secretions (e.g. tears, snot) or from exposure to sneezing or coughing. This type of spread is most common when dogs are kept in close contact with one another, such as kennels, shelters, or grooming facilities. If a dog comes in with typical kennel cough symptoms and they were recently boarded somewhere, a veterinarian can make an educated guess that kennel cough is the cause of the pet’s problems.

Sometimes X-rays and lab work are needed to determine how sick a pet is (e.g. kennel cough that has led to pneumonia) or to make sure other diseases aren’t causing the illness (e.g. collapsing trachea). If an accurate diagnosis is needed, lab testing such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays can be performed.

Affected Breeds

No specific breed of dog are more at risk for kennel cough than any other.

Treatment

Kennel cough is often self-limiting, meaning it will improve without treatment. Sometimes pets need supportive treatments such as steroids to help with the inflammation, cough suppressants for severe coughing, or antibiotics to control the bacterial portion of the infection. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the severity of kennel cough and what types of treatment are needed. Be sure to inform your vet if your pet does not continue to improve.

Veterinary Cost

Generally, the cost for kennel cough treatment is related to the examination and medications prescribed. This cost usually ranges from $75 to $200 depending on the size of the pet and which medications are needed. If lab work and X-rays are needed, it could be an additional $200 to $500 depending on the tests run.

Prevention

Vaccines are available to help prevent kennel cough. These include vaccinations against parainfluenza virus, distemper virus for dogs, feline distemper, adenovirus type 2, influenza virus, and Bordetella bronchiseptica. Vaccination against most of these bacteria and viruses will not completely prevent infection, but it will help decrease the severity of the symptoms if a pet does become infected.

Avoiding overcrowded environments can also decrease the risk of infection. If one pet is showing symptoms of kennel cough but others in the household are not, isolate the infected pet from the others. This may be necessary for a long period of time – infected animals may be contagious for weeks. Ensure the area that the infected pet is housed in is well ventilated, and disinfect their bedding and food and water bowls regularly with bleach. Make sure the other pets are up to date on their vaccines.

References

1. Ford RB: Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease. Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat, 4th ed. Elsevier, St. Louis 2012 pp. 55-65.

2. Hurley KF: Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC) - Diagnosis and Treatment; Prevention and Management. Pacific Veterinary Conference 2015.

3. Richardson J, Glaser A, Dubovi E, et al: Prevalence of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex Pathogens in Dogs in Georgia and North Carolina. ACVIM 2016.

4. Joffe D J, Lelewski R, Weese J S, et al: Factors associated with development of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC) in dogs in 5 Canadian small animal clinics. Can Vet J 2016 Vol 57 (1) pp. 46-51.

5. Litster A: Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex. Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference 2015.

6. Mitchell J A, Cardwell J M, Renshaw R W, et al: Detection of canine pneumovirus in dogs with canine infectious respiratory disease. J Clin Microbiol 2013 Vol 51 (12) pp. 4112-4119.

7. Erles K, Brownlie J: Canine respiratory coronavirus: an emerging pathogen in the canine infectious respiratory disease compl. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 2008 Vol 38 (4) pp. 815-825.

8. Kawakami K, Ogawa H, Maeda K, et al: Nosocomial outbreak of serious canine infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) caused by canine herpesvirus infection. J Clin Microbiol 2010 Vol 48 (4) pp. 1176-1181.

9. Decaro N, Pinto P, Mari V, et al: Full-genome analysis of a canine pneumovirus causing acute respiratory disease in dogs, Italy. PLoS One 2014 Vol 9 (1) pp. e85220.

10. Vieson M D, Piñeyro P, LeRoith T: A review of the pathology and treatment of canine respiratory infections. Vet Med Res Rep 2013 Vol 3 pp. 25-39.

11. Mitchell J A, Brownlie J: The challenges in developing effective canine infectious respiratory disease vaccines. J Pharm Pharmacol 2015 Vol 67 (3) pp. 372-381.

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