Kennel Cough: Symptoms, Treatment and Tips

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Kennel cough, or infectious canine tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It causes coughing, eye discharge, nausea, fever and lack of energy among other symptoms.

What Causes Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is similar to a cold. The main causes for these symptoms are:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria
  • Mycoplasma
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Canine adenovirus
  • Distemper virus

How Is Kennel Cough Diagnosed?

Usually the diagnosis is based upon the symptoms. The vet will rarely order any test or culture to know if the problem is caused by a bacteria or a virus, since we only treat the symptoms.

If there were any complications (pneumonia, for example),the vet might prescribe antibiotics. In that case, some combination of blood tests, chest X-ray and other tests might also be necessary.

What Should I Do If My Dog Has Kennel Cough?

If your dog is coughing, lacks of energy, has some eye discharge... you should go to the vet. The vet will listen for abnormal sounds to check if it is an infection of the upper respiratory system, if the dog has bronchitis, or even pneumonia. If the vet suspects pneumonia, he will want to take some X-rays to be sure.

Depending on the severity, they vet will recommend some drugs. It might include anti-inflammatory medication (never Ibuprofen) or corticosteroids, antibiotics, mucolytics, bronchodilators, etc.

In some cases, the dog might be admitted at the clinic. This will be the case when the dog is too young or too old, or if he belongs to a more sensitive breed, like Bulldogs.

Tips If Your Dog Has Kennel Cough

  1. Rest: he can go out for a walk, but not exercise
  2. Use a harness better than a collar
  3. If your dog eats dry food, put some water or homemade chicken stock (without salt!)
  4. Instead of feeding him 2-3 times per day, do it 4-5 times in smaller quantities
  5. He should drink water often
  6. He cannot be in contact with other dogs

Once your dog is healthy again, go back to the vet and get a shot against kennel cough. If your dog is at daycare or stays in a hotel, they should ask for it.