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Infectious Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough)

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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You might think your dog has something stuck in his throat. The cough associated with acute infectious tracheobronchitis, (ITB) or kennel cough, is a high-pitched, honk-like cough, sometimes followed by retching.

Kennel cough is a highly contagious inflammation of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchial tree caused by a contagious virus (adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, canine distemper virus) or bacterium (Bordetella bronchiseptica). The disease is associated most often with dogs housed in a high-density population or boarding kennel. The infectious agents can be transmitted through the air or by contact with contaminated surfaces. Puppies and younger dogs are at greatest risk, but even old dogs can acquire kennel cough.

The incubation period from the time the dog first contracts the infection to the time that symptoms develop is typically between 3 to 10 days, and the symptoms can last for days to weeks. A mild to moderate cough without other symptoms is usually self-limiting; however, occasional cases become lingering and cause chronic bronchitis.

What to Watch For

Kennel cough causes a variety of symptoms that can vary in severity.

  • Signs of upper respiratory problems such as conjunctivitis (irritated eyes), rhinitis (runny nose) or sneezing may be observed.

  • Cough. The classic symptoms are bouts of a loud, honking cough that worsen with activity or excitement and can persist for minutes. The dog will often act as if something is stuck in the throat and retch or vomit up fluid after coughing. If secondary bacterial pneumonia develops, the dog often shows signs of illness such as loss of appetite, depression, or fever.

  • Loss of appetite

  • Depression

  • Fever

  • Difficult breathing

    Any of these signs should prompt a visit to see your veterinarian in order to be certain pneumonia has not set in.

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