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Infectious Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough) in Dogs

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Diagnosis

Complete medical history will usually reveal recent exposure to a kennel or other dogs. Windpipe sensitivity is present in most cases. Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize kennel cough and exclude other diseases. These tests may include:

  • A chest X-ray may be recommended to determine if pneumonia is present.

  • Routine laboratory blood tests-a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry panel is not necessary unless your pet is showing signs of generalized illness, fever or loss of appetite.

  • A fecal flotation should be done to exclude intestinal parasites.

  • If signs of eye involvement are observed, the cornea of the eye should be examined carefully.

    Treatment

    Therapy is controversial because the disease is usually self-limiting (like a human cold) and, if a viral infection is suspected, antibiotics can't kill the virus. This is especially true in mild, uncomplicated cases where treatment is supportive-not unlike that given to a person with a bad cold. Treatments for kennel cough may include one or more of the following:

  • Cough suppressants are appropriate for some pets with kennel cough. Your veterinarian can discuss the pros and cons of this treatment. Injections or pills (butorphanol) are often used, but occasionally, a stronger medicine is needed (codeine-related) to break the cough cycle. Don't use over-the-counter human medicine without first speaking to your veterinarian.

  • Antibiotics are used in some patients, especially if Bordetella infection or secondary bacterial infection is likely.

  • If the symptoms do not improve or should they become chronic, a careful re-evaluation including blood tests and a chest X-ray is indicated.

    Home Care

  • Deworming of puppies is appropriate if they have not recently received such treatments.

    To prevent the spread of kennel cough, keep your dog away from other dogs for at least one week. In addition, do the following:

  • Limit exercise and enforce periods of rest; don't exercise or play with your dog. Activity often initiates periods of loud, uncomfortable coughing.

  • Encourage adequate fluid intake to maintain hydration. Provide soft food if dry food irritates the throat.

  • If your dog normally wears a restraint collar, remove it or replace it with a harness to decrease airway irritation.

  • Avoid environmental stresses including house dust, vapors, chemical fumes and tobacco smoke.

  • To mobilize secretions and reduce coughing, provide humidified air (e.g. a vaporizer in the dog's room or in a steamy bathroom for one or two hours).

    Preventative Care

    Vaccinations provide very good protection against ITB in most dogs. However, like all vaccinations, protection is not 100 percent and some dogs will contract ITB despite vaccination.

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