Kennel Cough is a highly contagious, upper respiratory
disease in dogs caused by a variety of bacteriae and viruses. The
most common are parainfluenza, Bordetella bronchiseptica, and
mycoplasma. Other agents include Canine adenovirus, reovirus, herpes
The disease has a very dramatic presentation. Puppies are
highly susceptible and typically develop a sudden dry hacking cough,
violent retching and sometimes breathing difficulty. A watery nasal
discharge may also be present. Many dogs continue to eat and be
alert and active but some develop lethargy, fever, anorexia (not
eating) and possibly pneumonia.
The diagnosis is clinical in most cases and is based on the
typical cough (“Honking”) and a recent history of exposure to dog in
populated areas such as boarding facilities, pet stores, shelters,
grooming, training classes or dog parks.
Mild (uncomplicated) form of the disease is usually
self-limiting. More severe cases can be treated with antibiotics,
anti-inflammatory, cough suppressors and moister. Nebulizing
treatment is sometimes more effective and quick.
Puppies with immature immune system should not be exposed
to other dogs and high risk environments until immunity is solid and
vaccination plan is completed. Multi-pet households should remember
that adult healthy dogs may be carriers and transmit diseases to
newly introduced puppies. At the same time, recovering or otherwise
healthy looking puppies arriving from pet stores, shelters or
industrial breeders with kennel cough issues, may introduce the
disease to unprotected family dogs.
Most if not all dogs should be properly vaccinated against
respiratory diseases, as exposure is almost inevitable due to the
common canine lifestyle and activity.
Bordetella bronchiseptica may cause disease in
immunocompromised humans, and young children.