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Infectious Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough) in Dogs

Overview of Kennel Cough in Dogs

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.

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

Diagnosis of Infectious Tracheobronchitis in Dogs

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:

Treatment of Infectious Tracheobronchitis in Dogs

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:

Home Care

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.

In-depth Information Kennel Cough in Dogs

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis (ITB), also known as the kennel cough complex, refers to a group of acute contagious infectious respiratory diseases in dogs, which can cause inflammation of the larynx, trachea, bronchi and lung. The condition is especially common in unvaccinated, young dogs.

In addition to infectious (contagious) causes of tracheobronchitis, other conditions of the upper and lower airways may cause signs similar to those of infectious tracheobronchial infection. Your veterinarian may need to perform tests to rule out some of these other conditions. This is particularly true if initial treatment of the condition does not lead to an appropriate response. The list of potential causes of these symptoms is very long. They include:

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

In-depth Information on Diagnosis

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:

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

In-depth Information on Treatment

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

Follow-up Care for Dogs with Infectious Tracheobronchitis

Optimal treatment for your dog requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical, especially if your dog does not rapidly improve.