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Infectious Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough)

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Therapy In-depth

Treatments for ITB may include one or more of the following:

  • Because antibiotics can't kill the viruses that are usually responsible for kennel cough, don't expect your veterinarian to automatically prescribe them. Antibiotics are more likely to be used if Bordetella bacterial infection or secondary bacterial infection is suspected; however, there is no "quick test" for this infection.

  • The mild, uncomplicated patient may be given no medication or only a mild cough suppressant.

  • Cough suppressants are appropriate when the cough is frequent and debilitating and there is no evidence of pneumonia. An initial injection of butorphanol may help break the cough cycle. Oral administered pills are also available. Stronger medicine codeine-related such as hydrocodone sold as Hycodan or Tussinex) may be needed to break the cough cycle in severe cases. Over-the-counter medicines such as Robitussin should only be used after speaking to your veterinarian.

  • In cases of lingering kennel cough, a tracheal washing should be done to culture any offending bacteria. If Bordetella bronchiseptica is found, a powerful antibiotic may be needed (as many routine drugs such as amoxicillin won't usually kill this bacterium). Some of these can only be given by injection. Some powerful and commonly used oral antibiotics (enrofloxacin (Baytril®) or other fluoroquinolone antibiotics) should not be used in rapidly growing puppies. Occasionally, an antibiotic such as gentamicin may be nebulized ("vaporized") in the veterinary hospital.

  • Very rarely, a brief course of an anti-inflammatory medicine may be needed to quiet a severe cough due to tracheobronchitis; however, these drugs can decrease resistance to secondary bacteria thereby promoting pneumonia.

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