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Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is an easily spread, upper respiratory disease of dogs. It is usually caused by a bacterium, Bordetella bronchiseptica, or the virus, canine parainfluenza. Often both organisms combine in one pet to produce the disease. Other agents, such as Mycoplasma, and other viruses (canine adenovirus 1, canine adenovirus 2, and canine distemper virus) are all potential causes of kennel cough. Kennel cough passes rapidly from one dog to another, especially in crowded situations such as kennels, dog shows, grooming salons, doggie day care, and obedience classes. Vaccination against Bordetella and parainfluenza will provide protection against almost all infections, but those caused by less common pathogens may still cause illness. Dogs that receive the common "five in one" annual booster routinely receive protection from the adenoviruses, distemper, and parainfluenza. Bordetella should be added as an additional vaccine for dogs exposed to crowded situations.

Dogs rarely get very sick with kennel cough. The usual course of the disease includes a harsh, moist, honking cough that intensifies for a week or slightly more, then slackens and disappears. The cough usually lasts from 2 to 8 weeks. In most cases, the dog still feels good and will play, eat, drink, and otherwise act normally. Dogs with a runny nose or eyes, that feel ill, or that run a fever may have a secondary infection, possibly even pneumonia, and require more intensive care. In most cases, veterinarians will elect to treat kennel cough with antibiotic therapy. This not only treats Bordetella, which is commonly present in these dogs, but helps to avoid invasion or damage of upper respiratory tissue by other bacteria that may cause more serious disease. In some cases, cough suppressants may be given in order to allow the dog to rest.

Kennel Cough - Infectious Tracheobronchitis in Dogs

What is infectious tracheobronchitis in dogs?

Infectious tracheobronchitis is the medical term that describes a group of contagious, respiratory diseases in dogs. The term describes the general cause (infection) and location (trachea and bronchi) of the diseases. Various microorganisms (such as viruses or bacteria) cause the diseases, thus they are considered to be "infectious." Tracheobronchitis is an inflammation of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (larger airways). Infectious tracheobronchitis is characterized by coughing. It is commonly called "kennel cough."

What causes infectious tracheobronchitis in dogs?

Infectious tracheobronchitis occurs when the respiratory system is weakened (by injury or other infection) and disease-causing microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites, invade the damaged tissues. Specific viruses include canine parainfluenza virus and canine herpesvirus. The canine distemper virus is not a cause of infectious tracheobronchitis. Many different bacteria may contribute to the disease. Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterial cause of kennel cough. Infectious tracheobronchitis is spread rapidly from dog to dog. Dogs kept in places that house multiple dogs (such as pet shops, animal shelters, research facilities, animal hospitals, and kennels) are at higher risk for exposure to the infectious agents of tracheobronchitis. Viral and bacterial vaccines are available to control the principal microorganisms involved in infectious tracheobronchitis. These vaccines prevent or limit the clinical signs of infectious tracheobronchitis.

What are the signs of infectious tracheobronchitis in dogs?

Signs of infectious tracheobronchitis can range from an uncomplicated cough to severe, life-threatening pneumonia. The most common sign of uncomplicated infectious tracheobronchitis is a cough in an otherwise healthy dog. The cough can be dry and hacking or moist and hacking. The dog may have episodes of sudden attacks (paroxysms) of coughing, followed by gagging or bringing up mucus or phlegm (expectoration). Excitement, exercise, or changes in temperature or humidity in the air will induce a paroxysm of coughing.

Severe infectious tracheobronchitis is an entirely different disease. A constant or fluctuating fever may be present. The dog's appetite is affected so it eats poorly, if at all. When present, the cough is moist and mucus will be coughed up. Other signs include discharge from the nose, lethargy, difficulty breathing, and fatigue. The veterinarian may hear crackles or wheezes when listening to the lungs with a stethoscope (auscultation), but lung sounds often are normal.

How is infectious tracheobronchitis diagnosed in dogs?

Infectious tracheobronchitis is diagnosed by a good medical history and a thorough physical examination. History of possible exposure (such as purchase from pet shop, adoption from an animal shelter, or boarding) is important. The dog's vaccination history is important. Physical examination, laboratory analysis, radiographs (X-rays), and other diagnostic procedures are part of the work-up. Complete blood counts (CBCs) may show either low or high white blood cell counts. Evaluating oxygen levels in the blood of dogs with pneumonia is useful. Radiographs of the chest may be taken, but these are of value primarily for ruling out noninfectious causes of cough. If severe infectious tracheobronchitis is suspected, a lighted scope is placed down the windpipe to visualize and gain access to the upper respiratory tract (bronchoscopy). During this procedure, the windpipe may be flushed with fluid (tracheal washing or lavage) to obtain samples for evaluation under the microscope and for viral and bacterial cultures. Specimens of mucus are obtained and examined under a microscope. Large numbers of organisms may be seen. Bronchoscopy is a significant aid in diagnosis and establishment of an effective treatment plan.

How is infectious tracheobronchitis treated in dogs?

Dogs with uncomplicated infectious tracheobronchitis can be cared for at home. More severe illness requires hospitalization. Rest and good nutrition are important. The dog should be isolated from other animals. Infected dogs may transmit the microorganism before and after onset of signs (until immunity is developed). Antibiotics are administered and may be continued for at least 10 days after resolution of the disease. The route of antibiotic administration will vary. Some bacteria are not killed by antibiotics administered by mouth (orally) or through a vein (intravenously); therefore, antibiotic administration via a nebulizer and mask (where the medication is inhaled) may be needed. Medications also are given for cough and wheezing; however, cough suppressants should not be used in dogs with pneumonia. Vaporizers may provide relief of signs. Good fluid intake is important for hydration and to keep the lungs and airways moist so that mucus can be coughed up more easily.

What is the prognosis for dogs with infectious tracheobronchitis?

The prognosis (outcome) for dogs with infectious tracheobronchitis varies. The natural course of uncomplicated infectious tracheobronchitis, if untreated, tends to be 10 to 14 days. Simple restriction of exercise and prevention of excitement will shorten the course of the disease. The typical course of severe infectious tracheobronchitis with treatment ranges from 2 to 6 weeks. Dogs that develop severe pneumonia can die.

Larry Tilley's Recommended Info site (www.VetMedCenter.com)