This week’s case is not a single patient, but rather several dogs that have come through our doors of late with a terrible cough. Their coughing is a characteristic dry, hacking cough and often comes in fits, occasionally followed by vomiting or ‘coughing up’ a small amount of foamy liquid. Dogs that have this type of cough as a sudden onset and no other signs of illness are very frequently diagnosed with kennel cough. Occasional outbreaks are seen, when numbers of dogs affected seems to spike, and we are seeing one such outbreak now.
Kennel cough is the nickname for canine infectious tracheobronchitis – inflammation of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (smaller airways that branch into the lungs) due to infection. The name “kennel cough” is used because the cough is usually caused by a highly contagious bacterial or viral infection that easily spreads through dogs in a kennel boarding situation. We also see kennel cough in some dogs after grooming. In other cases, there is no known recent contact with other dogs, but the infection can be contagious enough that dogs can even pick up illness if an infected dog was recently sniffing around the same area!
Signs of kennel cough typically begin within 7-14 days of the time of infection.
Though kennel cough can be extremely upsetting for both pets and their sleepless owners, most cases will resolve completely within 2 weeks. Typically, antibiotics and cough suppressant medications are used to treat the infection.
Some of the most common types of infectious organisms that cause of kennel cough are prevented, at least partially, by vaccination. These include the viral infections canine adenovirus and parainfluenza, and the bacterial infection Bordetella. Similar to the human flu shot, some dogs that are up to date on vaccination will still contract kennel cough. In many cases vaccinated dogs do not develop as severe of an illness as unvaccinated dogs.