Kennel Cough

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The medical name for kennel cough is infectious tracheobronchitis.

Lucy Finch

Big Stupid Medical Words

infectious – able to be transmitted from one sickie to another.  Infectious tracheobronchitis, particularly when the bacteria  Bordetella bronchiseptica is involved, is very contagious from dog to dog, but is also uncommonly transmitted to guinea pigs, rabbits and cats, and rarely transmitted to humans.

tracheo – pertaining to the trachea or “windpipe”.  The trachea extends from larynx, the voicebox, to the beginning of the bronchi, and can be felt along the middle of the underside of the neck.

bronchio – pertaining to the bronchi, which are the two tubes that branch off from the trachea and bring air into and out of the lower respiratory system

-itis – inflammation (swelling, redness, heat and/or pain), in this case most commonly inflammation of the upper respiratory tract which consists of the trachea and bronchi

The Infection

Kennel cough is a bit of a “catch all” phrase for any upper respiratory disease of dogs.  Usually it is a mixed bacterial and viral infection.  One of the most common bacteria to be involved is Bordetella bronchiseptica.  One of the most common viruses to be involved is canine parainfluenza virus.

The Cough

If your puppy or dog starts coughing, isolate him or her from other dogs and see your veterinarian as soon as possible.  Many things can cause coughing, of course, not all of them contagious, but all of them are worth a visit to the vet.  If infectious tracheobronchitis is diagnosed, the treatment is relatively easy, and the prognosis is good.

The Treatment

Usually, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed due to the probable involvement of  bacteria in infectious tracheobronchitis.  Other medication and supportive care, such as a switch from a collar to a harness for the duration of the illness, may also be recommended.  Keep your dog isolated from other dogs until he is healthy again.  Complete recovery usually occurs within a week or two, though it is possible for the infection to become more serious.  Have your dog rechecked right away if any complications develop, such as lethargy, inappetence or difficulty breathing.


When your dogs will be in group settings, such as at kennels, day cares, grooming salons or veterinary hospitals, check the places out in advance to make sure they are clean and uncrowded.  Ask if the facility has an optimal air exchange rate (The good places will be impressed you knew to ask!)  Kennel cough can be contracted from the best of places with one good cough or nose-to-nose greeting from a sick dog, but the cleaner the area and the better the air is circulated, the lower the risk of disease transmission.


An intranasal (into the nose) and an injectable vaccine are available that protect against Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine parainfluenza.  Vaccination is recommended (and sometimes required) any time your pet will be in a group situation, such as before boarding or grooming.  The vaccination takes about a week to be fully effective and is usually updated yearly.  The vaccination decreases the risk of illness, but is not 100% protective and does not protect against disease caused by other infectious agents.

My Patients

I have dealt with infectious tracheobronchitis many times with my canine patients.  They have all done well, though some of the very young puppies and older dogs have needed more extensive work-ups and treatments than most.

My Pets

We had a guinea pig I did not want exposed to Bordetella (It can cause a much more severe disease in guinea pigs than in dogs that is often fatal!), and Noodle the Poodle is groomed – at a clean, shiny place of course – but spends several hours in close quarters with other dogs, and so I do vaccinate him and Joy the Puppy every year.

Your Pets!

What has been your experience with kennel cough?  If your dogs have dealt with it, how have they done?  Do you have your pets vaccinated against the disease?

4 thoughts on “Kennel Cough”

  1. If you think your pet has the “cough” tell your vet and usually they would rather pop OUT to the car and Dx there rather than expose their clinic to the virus.
    I think it’s a good no, a great idea!

    oh, the very first time I heard it i thought pup was choking-(on a small squeeker from a toy)

  2. That IS a great idea! We try to get them in and out quickly and wipe everything down after. AND hope they don’t need x-rays or hospitalization! It is so contagious, but you really can see them in hospital safely, even if they need to stay longer!

  3. Oo Iope you do not catch it, Murphy Dog! Sounds like your Mom is taking every precaution – smart Mom!


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