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Canine Cough Syndrome

(Kennel Cough)

Randy Walker DVM

What Is Canine Cough Syndrome?

Canine Cough Syndrome (also called Infectious Tracheobronchitis or Kennel. Cough) is a highly contagious respiratory disease of dogs.

Is Canine Cough Syndrome Common?

Yes. Canine Cough is common in the dog population world-wide.

What Causes Canine Cough Syndrome?

Canine Cough is caused by certain viruses and bacteria working alone or in combination. The most important of these is a bacteria named Bordetella bronchiseptica.

What Are The Symptoms Of Canine Cough?

A dry, hacking cough is the most common sign. Dogs with this disease will often have coughing spells followed by hanging their head over and making a gagging or retching sound from their throat. In fact, many clients suspect that the dog has something lodged in their throat when it turns out to be Canine Cough. Sometimes the coughing can lead to nausea. Fever, malaise, and loss of appetite are uncommon symptoms with Canine Cough but are sometimes seen.

How Long Does The Typical Case Of Canine Cough Last?

This can vary greatly from patient to patient. Usually the clinical. signs continue for several days but can persist for up to several weeks in some cases.

How Serious Is Canine Cough Syndrome?

In most cases this is a mild disease. The clinical signs should be treated, however, because not only is the persistent cough distressing to both the dog and the owner, but it can also lead to permanent damage to the respiratory tract in some cases if allowed to progress unchecked. Canine Cough can also progress to pneumonia in some cases if left untreated.

How Is Canine Cough Syndrome Diagnosed?

Physical exam, history, and appropriate lab tests are used.

How Is Canine Cough Syndrome Treated?

Treatment consists of medications to reduce secondary bacterial infection (antibiotics), medications to reduce inflammation, and medications to suppress the cough.

Can My Dog Catch Canine Cough If He's Hot Been In A Boarding Kennel?

The germs which cause this disease are extremely infectious and while the dog in the boarding kennel situation is most at risk, we routinely see many cases of dogs contracting Canine Cough who were never out of their own backyard. This disease is aerosolized (meaning to be spread by coughed droplets in the wind) by coughing and a dog can sometimes become exposed from germs spread by a dog who is some distance away. Also many dogs will carry some of these bacteria and viruses normally in their respiratory tract and can become ill from Canine Cough during periods of stress when these "bad guys" take over.

Isn't My Dog Fully Protected Against Canine Cough By His Yearly 7-Way Vaccination?

No. Its true that the regular Distemper/Parvo 7-way vaccination does protect against two of the viruses that can cause Canine Cough (Parainfluenza virus and Adenovirus type II) but it does not contain protection against Bordetella bronchiseptica which is the most threatening of the infectious agents which cause Canine Cough.

Is There A Vaccination For Bordetella?

Yes. We usually give an intranasal vaccination (meaning to squirt some up each nostril) to protect against Bordetella or your veterinarian may prefer the injectable vaccine. The vaccine also usually includes protection against Parainfluenza.

What Is The Recommended ended Protocol For The Bordetella Vaccination?

This will vary from region to region so what I'm describing here is simply an example of a Bordetella vaccination program and may not be what your veterinarian recommends. I usually give an intranasal dose at least one week prior to boarding or exposure to Canine Cough situations (exposure to other dogs). Boosters are recommended yearly if the dog is not being boarded or to be current within the last 6 months prior to boarding.

Why Is The Vaccine Given Intranasally?

Research has shown that most of the immunity toward Bordetella is localized in the upper respiratory passages. Our intranasal vaccine is superior in boosting this localized immunity.

Which Dogs Should Receive The Bordetella (Canine Cough) Vaccine?

To a large extent this is an individual owner's decision. If your dog is going to be boarded in a kennel, exposed to unfamiliar dogs or traveling, then the Bordetella vaccination is highly recommended. If your dog is not going to be in these situations then the risk of exposure is lower. Many clients do include this as part of their dog's general preventive health program and this is a wise choice.

Do Most Boarding Facilities Require Bordetella Vaccination For All Dogs Prior To Boarding?


Why Is This Required?

Responsible boarding facilities require this vaccination to help minimize the risk of your dog or someone else's dog contracting Canine Cough while boarding.

Is It Possible For My Dog To Get Canine Cough Syndrome Even If He's Vaccinated?

Yes it is possible to catch Canine Cough anyway but the chances are much less with vaccination and the severity of illness is greatly reduced if the dog with Canine Cough has received prior vaccination.

Why Is The Vaccination Not A 100% Guarantee Against Getting Canine Cough?

Because (as mentioned before) Canine Cough is often caused by several. viruses and bacteria; only 3 of which (Bordetella Parainfluenza and Adeno type II) it is possible to vaccinate against.

- Randy Walker DVM
Sun Lakes Animal Clinic
May 14,2004

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