Kennel Cough


Infectious tracheobronchitis is an infection of the trachea (windpipe) and the large air passages of the lungs. This disease is caused by many different types of organisms (germs) but a virus is one of the main problems. It is very contagious and, therefore, spreads rapidly from one dog to another. It can be a potential problem in any confined area where there are a lot of dogs (kennels, grooming facilities, etc.). Cats are not affected.

Although your pet seems to be alert and in general good health, you will notice a sudden onset of a dry  harsh cough. Often this cough will be followed by the gagging up of some phlegm or foamy mucus.  Frequently, the pet owner mistakenly suspects that the dog has something caught in the throat.

With treatment, recovery is usually complete, although medications may be necessary for weeks. Rarely does "kennel cough" cause pneumonia. If the doctor is suspicious, an X-ray of the lung may be recommended.

Home care may consist of some or all of the following:

  1. Antibiotics
  2. Cough suppressants (syrup or pills)
  3. Expectorants - to mobilize the mucus
  4. Tranquilizers - anxiety may stimulate more coughing
  5. Vaporizers - can prevent drying out of the wind pipe
  6. Limiting exercise - heavy breathing stimulates the cough

Remember... this problem usually sounds worse than it actually is. Collars may stimulate coughing by putting pressure on the throat. You may want to have your pet wear a harness for a short time.

Notify the doctor if any of the following occurs:

  1. Worsening cough (with or without blood).
  2. Your pet stops eating.
  3. You are unable to give the medication.
  4. Your dog becomes more depressed.


There are two vaccines to help prevent the more serious forms of kennel cough. The Parainfluenza and Bordetella vaccines cannot completely prevent the problem, but help a great deal. They should be given yearly, along with your dog's other vaccines. A booster every six months is also recommended if your pet is routinely exposed to other dogs.


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