beagle cough

Kennel Cough: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Kennel cough is caused by various viruses and bacteria and is also known as infectious canine tracheobronchitis or canine influenza. The disease affects the airways of dogs, wolves, foxes, and raccoons worldwide and causes a typical dry whooping cough.

Causes of Kennel Cough

The viruses causing this disease include:

  • Canine Parainfluenza Virus (CPiV 2)
  • Canine Adenovirus Type 2 (CAdV 2)
  • Canine Herpesvirus Type 1 (CaHV 1)
  • Influenza A Virus
  • Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)
  • The Reoviridaes
  • Canine Respiratory Coronavirus (CrCoV)

By coughing up nasal secretions or saliva (droplet infection), viruses enter the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract. Contaminated objects such as dog toys or drinking fountains can also be involved in an infection. There, local proliferation occurs, especially in the lymph nodes. Pathogens enter the bloodstream through the lymph, allowing them to reach various organs in a short time. Due to the damage that occurs there, secondary bacterial infections can influence a more severe development of the disease. The following bacteria have an important role:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Uncommon mycoplasmas
  • Klebsiellas
  • Pseudomonas

However, the main causes of kennel cough are canine parainfluenza virus (CPiV 2) and Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria.

In addition to pathogen-related factors, other determining factors also play a role. The name derives from the fact that the disease occurs especially in places where animals are kept in groups. Therefore, kennel cough occurs especially in kennels, animal protectors, animal clinics, or even dog shows. Environmental factors such as temperature and humidity are also of great importance. The risk of contagion from kennel cough increases if there is poor hygiene. Although the disease is usually mild in most cases, it can also lead to serious respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia (bronchitis). Affected animals usually have a weakened immune system. They include puppies, older animals, and sick dogs, as well as quadrupeds that are under a lot of stress due to long movements.

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Symptoms of Kennel Cough

In most cases, kennel cough is mild and often latent. This means that pathogens hide in the body and do not cause problems for a long time. However, dogs are highly contagious during this latent phase. The time between infection and the appearance of the first symptoms (incubation period) is about 3-10 days, depending on the spectrum of the pathogen. Infectious tracheobronchitis can be recognized by strong cold symptoms and, above all, coughing fits. The cough is dry, hoarse, strong and constant and can occur under stress, but also spontaneously. They are often triggered by excessive collar pressure in the larynx.

In some cases, affected dogs may also have a suffocating cough. Depending on the pathogens involved in the disease, other symptoms such as fever, runny nose, tonsillitis, and general malaise may appear. Secondary bacterial infections are recognized by a purulent, runny nose and can also cause purulent inflammation of the throat, trachea, and lungs. If one of the causes is canine herpesvirus type 1, gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain may also occur.

Diagnosis of Kennel Cough

If you suspect that your dog has kennel cough, you should immediately consult a veterinarian. After asking yourself some detailed questions (anamnesis), you can perform a general clinical examination to assess the condition of the dog. Next, you’ll take a look at the airways to see how healthy its lungs and other air-transporting organs are. The vet pays attention to possible nasal and eye discharge, cough and other pathological behaviors. The next thing is to listen to the trachea and lungs with a stethoscope.

To detect an acute viral and bacterial infection, it is necessary to take a sample with a sterile swab. Virus identification can be performed using nasal and throat swabs by culturing the viruses present in a nutrient medium or by identifying them using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). To discover a latent infection, indirect antibody detection can be performed by taking a blood sample. This measures the level of protective proteins (antibodies) already produced.

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Kennel Cough Treatment

During treatment, it is important to regularly measure the body’s internal temperature to assess the success of the therapy. Antibiotics help against secondary bacterial infections. However, before administering an antibiotic, a tolerance test should be performed to reduce the dog’s resistance to antibiotics. One of the most widely used antibiotics is doxycycline, which has a broad spectrum of hosts. In addition to targeted antibiotic treatment, symptomatic therapy is recommended. This is based on medications to relieve cough and reduce fever. For eye discharge, you can use a special cream.

It is also advisable to eliminate deficiencies in the conditions of possession and hygiene to strengthen the dog’s immune system. Stressors such as dog sports or events should be completely avoided, as this can weaken the sick dog on the one hand and can lead to spreading the disease to healthy animals on the other.

Prognosis of Kennel Cough

The prognosis of kennel cough depends largely on the pathogens involved in the disease and the degree of weakness of the dog due to environmental influences. However, in most cases, symptoms improve within a few weeks. However, this does not rule out a new disease since the immune system takes time to recover once the disease is overcome. If the animal is very weak, serious complications such as severe pneumonia can be fatal.

How to Prevent Kennel Cough

Since kennel cough is a multi-factor disease, prophylaxis is carried out at different levels. In group holdings, it is recommended to improve conditions, stress factors and hygiene problems. Installations and objects must be disinfected and cleaned regularly and humidity and cold must be avoided.

In addition, there is the possibility of vaccinating against infectious tracheobronchitis. There are two vaccines available, which are administered differently:

  • Canine parainfluenza virus + Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Canine parainfluenza virus + Canine adenovirus type 2 + Canine distemper virus

To strengthen the immune system enough, it is advisable to start administering it from the eighth week. Then another immunization is done at four weeks, and every two years after that.

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