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Kennel Cough in Dogs

A dog being treated for kennel cough

Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory infection in dogs that causes a persistent cough. 

Understanding this condition is vital for dog owners to manage and prevent its spread effectively.

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD) or infectious tracheobronchitis, involves infections from various bacteria and viruses. It's akin to a chest cold in humans, spreading rapidly among dogs in close quarters like kennels.

Mild cases typically resolve within a few weeks, but severe cases may take longer and require intensive care.

Causes of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is most commonly caused by viral infections, such as canine adenovirus or parainfluenza, though there are probably hundreds of other viruses which can be the culprit, as with human colds. Occasionally bacteria such as B. bronchiseptica, can be involved.

These all attack the respiratory tract, leading to inflammation and the characteristic cough.

Can kennel cough be deadly? 

While rare, severe cases can lead to complications like pneumonia, which can be life-threatening, especially in very young, old, or immunocompromised dogs. 

However Veterinary examination is necessary to differentiate kennel cough from other diseases which present similarly, such as lungworm or heart failure.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

Mild Symptoms

A common symptom of kennel cough in dogs is a dry nose

Dogs with mild cases often exhibit a persistent dry cough, sometimes accompanied by retching. Other mild symptoms can include clear eye discharge and a runny nose. 

Throat sensitivity is also common, where the dog coughs when its throat is gently rubbed.

Severe Symptoms

Severe cases include lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, and laboured breathing. These symptoms indicate a more serious infection requiring immediate veterinary attention to prevent complications.

Diagnosis of Kennel Cough

Veterinarians diagnose kennel cough based on clinical history and physical examination. 

Diagnostic tests such as blood work, chest X-rays, and PCR testing may be used to identify specific pathogens and assess the infection's severity.

Treatment of Kennel Cough

Treatment of Kennel Cough will greatly depend on the infection's severity, as well as the general health of the dog. Particularly young or older dogs will likely require more specialised care.

Home Care for Mild Cases

For mild cases, supportive care at home is often sufficient. This includes rest, hydration, and good nutrition. Humidifiers can ease breathing, and cough suppressants may be used under veterinary guidance.

In most cases of kennel cough, antibiotics are not required.

Veterinary Care for Severe Cases

Severe cases may require hospitalisation. 

Treatment can include intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration, antibiotics to combat bacterial infections, and oxygen therapy for dogs with difficulty breathing.

Prevention of Kennel Cough


Vaccination as a preventative treatment for kennel cough

Vaccination is a primary preventive measure. 

Vaccines protect against the main pathogens causing kennel cough and are recommended for dogs that frequently interact with others or stay in kennels. You should be aware though, that as there are hundreds of potential viruses involved, even dogs who have been vaccinated against kennel cough can still succumb to the disease on occasion.

Avoiding Exposure

Minimising exposure to high-risk environments, such as kennels, dog parks, and grooming facilities, can significantly reduce the risk of infection.

Good hygiene practices and avoiding contact with infected dogs - which can be difficult - are also effective preventive strategies.

Managing Recovery at Home

Creating a Safe Environment

Creating a safe and comfortable environment is important for recovery. 

Avoid irritants like smoke or strong perfumes and use a harness instead of a collar to reduce throat irritation.

Feed soft, easily digestible food and ensure access to plenty of fresh drinking water. You should avoid your dog becoming in contact with other dogs whilst they have kennel cough, and for two weeks after they stop coughing. 

You should also be aware that kennel cough can persist for up to 6 weeks in some dogs, though during this time you should expect the cough to be reducing in severity. If the cough is persistent or increasing in severity, you should contact you vet again.

By understanding kennel cough's symptoms, treatment, and prevention strategies, dog owners can ensure their pets remain healthy and protected against this common yet manageable condition.

If your dog's quality of life is severely impaired, contact out team via 0333 041 8200 or request an appointment.


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