Kennel Cough Symptoms and Treatment

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Kennel Cough is a broad term that is commonly applied to one of the most common upper respiratory problem in dogs.   Other names for the disease are  Bordetellosis, Bordetella, tracheobronchitis, and canine infectious tracheobronchitis.

Infectious agents involved

Kennel Cough is highly contagious and is generally caused by different pathogens.

The most common viral agent is parainfluenza virus. This common virus will cause mild symptoms lasting less than 6 days unless there is involvement of other bacteria, as is usually the case. Most 5-way vaccines and 'kennel cough' vaccines offer some protection against this virus.

Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common bacteria isolated from dogs with tracheobronchitis. Clinical signs of infections occur 2-14 days after exposure, and if uncomplicated with other agents, symptoms will last around 10 days. However, after the infection has been resolved, the affected animal will continue to shed the bacteria for 6 to 14 weeks and can spread the disease to other susceptible animals during that time. Bordetella is one of the agents protected against through the use of intranasal 'kennel cough' vaccines. Parainfluenza and Bordetella most commonly appear together in infectious tracheobronchitis, creating a disease that normally lasts from 14-20 days.

Mycoplasma, Canine adenovirus type 2, reovirus, and canine herpes virus are thought to contribute to the disease, as well.  The majority of kennel cough cases are the result of more than one pathogen.


  • Dry hacking cough sometimes followed by retching.
  • With mild cases, dogs continue to eat and be alert and active.
  • In more severe cases, the symptoms may include lethargy, fever, pneumonia, and even death.
  • The majority of severe cases occur in immunocompromised animals, or young unvaccinated puppies.


Diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms and a history of recent exposure to other dogs, particularly boarding kennels and other areas with a high concentration of dogs or poor ventilation.



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