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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Veterinarians see a large number of coughing dogs and the cause is frequently described as "kennel cough" because outbreaks were  most commonly seen at the time dogs were put into kennels - but what is it ?

"Kennel cough" is a term commonly used to describe the cough caused by inflammation of the windpipe (trachea) and the lower airways in the chest - the bronchi..  Kennel cough can be caused by viruses (eg canine parainfluenza virus), but in the UK it most often occurs due to infection of the airway with a bacterium called Bordatella bronchiseptica. The disease is properly called infectious tracheobronchitis.

The signs are :

  • A cough - which sounds like a "honk" and owners often think the dog has something stuck in its throat. 
  • Occasionally the dog will cough up mucus.
  • A discharge down the nose
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • If pneumonia occurs as a complication the disease can even be fatal.

Kennel cough outbreaks frequently occur when dogs have been kennelled away from home. There they come into contact with dogs carrying the infection, and they spread it around their neighbourhood when they come out.

The infection is transmitted by direct contact with infected dogs and by airborne transmission. The incubation period is 3-10 days (average 6 days) so a dog may not show signs for several days after it has left the kennels. Also, an animal that has picked up the disease in it's home environment may not show any signs until several days after it has entered a kennel environment. If a dog starts coughing once it is in a kennels it should be isolated away from other dogs to prevent transmission. Infected dogs act as carriers and may shed the Bordatella organism for 3-4 months after apparent recovery from the disease.

Fortunately there are vaccines available to protect against kennel cough. Owners should have their dogs protected prior to sending them into a kennel, and reputable kennel owners should insist that all dogs are fully vaccinated against Kennel cough before they are admitted on to the premises.

Vaccines against Bordatella are administered by spraying up the nose, whereas vaccines against viruses (eg parainfluenza virus) are given by injection. It is important to realise that immunity to Bordatella takes 5 days to develop after the vaccine is given and booster vaccines are advised every 6-10 months. For parainfluenza virus two vaccines are needed 3-4 weeks apart and annual boosters are required. 

Your veterinarian will advise you about the best vaccination protocol for your dog(s) BUT last minute vaccination is unlikely to protect your dog, and it certainly does not satisfy a kennel owners requirement to only admit fully protected dogs.

For more information about Bordatella CLICK HERE


Updated October 2013