Canine kennel cough (or infectious tracheobronchitis) is a respiratory disease that is spread through aerosolized bacteria or viruses, so your dog doesn’t have to be boarded at a kennel to get exposed. Vaccination for kennel cough may be recommended for your dog based upon his or her level of exposure to other dogs as well as your dog’s age, health status and predisposition toward respiratory disease.
The cough associated with this disease tends to be a dry, hacking cough that sometimes ends in a gag or retch, sometimes sounding like “there’s
something stuck in my dog’s throat!” Common infectious agents include:
• Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria
• Parainfluenza virus
• Adenovirus type 2
• Canine herpesvirus (very young puppies)
• Mycoplasma canis (a single-cell organism that is neither virus nor bacterium)
• Canine reovirus
Just like bronchitis in people, the cough can be mild and self-limiting or, depending upon the
infectious agent and the individual’s health status, may progress to life-threatening
pneumonia. Your vet will help determine how serious your dog’s infection is, as well as
whether medical therapy is indicated or simply supportive therapy as described below.
Here are some tips for caring for your dog with infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough).
1. REST is very important until the cough has resolved for at least 2 days (no running,
rough play, pulling on leash or excessive barking).
2. Offer “steam therapy” several times a day by placing your dog in a bathroom that’s
foggy from a hot shower. 10-15 minutes of breathing warm moist air can help ease
congestion and calm the cough by hydrating airways.
3. Add a little canned food, warm water or low sodium chicken broth to your dog’s dry
food to encourage better hydration.
4. Dogs typically cough for 1-2 weeks but may continue to shed Bordetella for 2-3
months after infection.
**If the character of the cough changes (i.e., becomes wet or excessively productive), your
dog has difficulty breathing, develops nasal discharge, or has a decline in attitude or
appetite, please call immediately. There are some respiratory illnesses that “look” like
kennel cough at the beginning, but then progress to more serious disease so keep your vet
apprised of any concerning changes!