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Infectious Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough) in Dogs

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Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnosis In-depth

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize ITB, and exclude other diseases. Often the diagnosis is made from the history of exposure and the typical clinical signs. If, however, the condition does not improve within 3 to 7 days, additional tests will be needed. If the patient shows "constitutional signs"-such as lethargy, fever, productive cough, cloudy nasal discharge-it is often recommended to obtain basic diagnostic tests to ensure that pneumonia has not developed. Tests may include:

  • A complete medical history and physical history.

  • A chest X-ray may be requested to screen for infections or anemia.

  • Routine laboratory blood tests should be done. A blood chemistry panel is only important if your pet is older, has previously identified diseases or is showing signs of generalized illness, fever or loss of appetite.

  • A fecal flotation should be done to exclude intestinal parasites in all puppies unless they have been previously subjected to a regular deworming program.

    Additional diagnostic tests may be recommended on an individual pet basis, including:

  • If signs of eye involvement are observed, the cornea of the eye should be examined carefully. This should also include tests that can detect a corneal ulcer (especially if the eye seems painful).

  • Thoracic X-rays (or repeated films) may be needed to follow the progress of disease.

  • A tracheoscopy and bronchoscopy should be done if a foreign body is suspected from history and review of radiographs (x-rays) or if there is a poor response to treatment.

  • A culture and cytology of bronchial fluid should be taken. This is especially important if there is a suspicion of a resistant bacteria or a severe pneumonia is present. The procedure is called a "tracheal wash" and can be done under a local anesthetic (placing a needle through the windpipe and flushing in fluid) or by briefly anesthetizing the dog to obtain fluid from the lung. This is then examined under a microscope and cultured for bacteria.

  • Fungal tests may be indicated based on results of radiographs in areas endemic for fungal infections such as histoplasmosis and blastomycosis.

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