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Kennel Cough – What You Need to Know

It’s autumn, the weather is getting colder, and just as it’s the beginning of cold and flu season for people, kennel cough is spreading among dogs in the Yonge and Eglinton area. Here is what you need to know to keep your dog healthy and safe.


What is Kennel Cough?


Infectious canine tracheobronchitis, or Kennel Cough, is an inflammation of the larynx (voice box), trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (passages that conduct air into the lungs). It is a condition that can actually be caused by a number of different agents, such as canine adenovirus, canine coronavirus, canine parainfluenza virus and mycoplasma. The most common culprit, however, is Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria, which is why this disease is often also called bordetellosis.

Kennel cough is highly contagious. It is spread through airborne droplets from coughing and sneezing, as well as contact with contaminated surfaces. It spreads easily in environments where there are lots of dogs in close proximity to one another, such as a kennel or dog park. Not all dogs exposed to Bordetella bacteria develop kennel cough; it depends on their age, general health and immune status. The incubation period (the time between exposure to the bacteria and the appearance of first symptoms) is five to seven days.



The main symptom of kennel cough is a persistent, hacking cough that is made worse by excitement or exercise. Your dog may also retch or vomit up a white, foamy phlegm. Other symptoms can include a runny nose and eye discharge. In most cases, the dog is active and eating normally, but more serious symptoms can include a lack of appetite, fever, lethargy and rapid breathing. Any dog exhibiting these symptoms should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. Kennel cough can progress to pneumonia, which could potentially be deadly.



Most healthy, adult dogs who develop kennel cough will recover on their own with nothing more than rest. Your veterinarian can, however, prescribe antibiotics that will lessen the duration of the illness and prevent it from progressing. Your vet may also prescribe cough suppressants if the cough is very severe. Young puppies, senior dogs and dogs with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of developing complications due to kennel cough, and should without question be seen by a veterinarian. Any dog exhibiting symptoms of kennel cough should be kept away from other dogs until they are fully recovered. Keep your dog in a warm, clean area, and don’t allow them to engage in strenuous exercise. Running a humidifier will provide your dog with relief. Avoid exposing your dog to irritating fumes, such as cigarette smoke. For dogs who pull on the leash, using a harness rather than a collar will prevent strain on larynx and help minimize coughing. The recovery time can last anywhere from ten to twenty days.



Because kennel cough can be caused by several different agents, a vaccine isn’t a failsafe, but vaccinating your dog can help prevent them from ever catching the most severe strains. Most vaccines provide immunity against Bordatella bacteria and canine parainfluenza virus, the two most common causes of kennel cough. A Bordatella infection is often accompanied by other viruses, such as canine adenovirus and canine distemper virus. They make it easier for the Bordatella to infect your dog, so keeping your dog up-to-date on all vaccines will help prevent Bordatella infection, as well as the other serious illnesses caused by these viruses.