Kennel Cough Symptoms and Treatment

Dogs are social and everyone is a friend. We love this friendly side, but interaction means they’re going to be exposed to respiratory pathogens. Just as being in an airplane exposes humans to respiratory disease, there’s no way for your dog to avoid exposure to respiratory bugs.

WHAT IS KENNEL COUGH?

Kennel Cough is also called Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex and Infectious Tracheobronchitis. Kennel Cough is coughing due to an infectious agent. It seldom causes the loss of life, but it does last three weeks and keeps us up at night. Coughing all night is why people typically take them to the veterinarian – they wake us up! Kennel Cough is caused by many different infections. Early Distemper looks like Kennel Cough, as does 12 other organisms. The key is to prevent coughing from getting a foothold.

HOW DO DOGS GET KENNEL COUGH?

Being social, dogs share their space with other dogs readily, which means they share their bugs as well. A common area where they socialize and are exposed to coughing bacteria is the boarding kennel. This is how the name came to be.

Exposure happens at:
  • Groomers
  • Dog parks
  • Veterinary clinics
  • Dog shows
  • Boarding kennels
  • Any place dogs are within 15 feet of each other when they cough
You can see the need for insurance against coughing!

TREATMENT

Coughing dogs usually have secondary bacterial infections, and that is the focus of the treatment. The cough has to run its course. Be aware that the support you give in treatment is just that – support until the puppy can remove the virus from the body and heal the sore throat.

Treatment involves:
  • Vaccination is often used to bring the immune system to the respiratory tract and to bring immunity of all dogs to the same level. Vaccinating every dog when coughing happens brings your “herd” immunity up and shuts down the new cases.
  • Antibiotics – Doxycycline is our choice.
  • Cough Suppressants – Cough Tablets are effective.
    • You do not want to stop the cough, just slow it down. Puppies will cough so much that they make their throats sore, which makes them cough even more!
    • The guaifenesin in cough tabs slows coughing but also breaks up congestion so it can be removed when coughing.
  • Nutrition
    • These guys have sore throats so be sure the tiny dogs are eating regularly and feed soft food. You don’t want to deal with hypoglycemia as well.
  • Other Remedies
    • We often put Vicks® or eucalyptus oil on a cloth and let the puppy sleep with it. We find the tiny dogs breathe easier and sleep better.

PREVENTION

With respiratory disease transmitted so easily, prevention through vaccination is the best control. Kennel Cough vaccines will reduce the chance of disease, and they include protection against the three most common causes: Adenovirus, Parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica. Other two more common causes include Influenza and Distemper.

Influenza is now an issue in dogs and can be prevented with vaccination. Boarding kennels often require this vaccine to protect your dog from transmitting or getting influenza. If you show dogs, you can expect the Influenza vaccine to be required to enter the show arena.

Yearly vaccination also includes protection against Distemper, preventing the coughing and neurologic disease Distemper causes.

That totals five diseases we vaccinate for that can cause coughing. These are the “bad boys” we want to prevent.

PREVENTION THROUGH DISINFECTION

An important part of any disease prevention plan is disinfection. Disinfectants keep your dog’s living areas clean and wild bacteria and virus numbers low. If dogs never get a large dose of a respiratory virus, your dog will handle the exposure without coughing. Large doses of viruses will always bring respiratory disease, just as someone coughing in your face gives you a cold every time.

Common disinfectants that get Parvovirus are effective against Kennel Cough. Our preferences are Virkon®, OXINE®, and Accel®. OXINE® can be used in a fogger to decrease the wild bugs in kennels or boarding facilities and is often used in pet shops safely. Although it does not penetrate, household bleach at 1:30 dilution is an effective disinfectant for your pet’s crates, food and water bowls, or sleeping area.

Coughing is rarely life-threatening to a puppy, but the constant coughing will drive you crazy and keep you up at night. Once started, the cough lingers three weeks and is not easily treated. Lower the coughing risk by vaccinating them with Kennel Cough vaccines. You and your puppy will sleep easier if you do!


If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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