Kennel cough in dogs

Dog kennel cough, or “canine infectious tracheobronchitis”, is a highly contagious disease of dogs. It is transmitted by close contact between dogs (for example during “nose to nose”, by sneezing or coughing). This is why its transmission facilitates in communities: breeding, dog shows, hunting, dog training courses, boarding … hence the name “kennel cough”.

While the majority of dogs recover fairly well from the disease within a few days or weeks. Some individuals may more severely affect.

Causes of the disease

Several agents are responsible for kennel cough. It is very often found associated in the same animal, it is therefore a multifactorial disease:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica, a bacterium that can also infect cats, rabbits or horses. It colonizes the cilia of the trachea and bronchi.
  • The Canine Parainfluenza Virus (IPPC), tres FAQ isolated que retrouve on a surface du tractus respiratoire, des cavites nasales aux bronchioles. Combined with Bordetella bronchiseptica and mycoplasmas, it causes the typical kennel cough.
  • The Canine Adenovirus type 1 and 2 (CAV-1 and CAV-2). CAV-1 is responsible for Rubarth’s Hepatitis. But together with CAV-2, they are both responsible for the most severe cases of kennel cough. They can find throughout the respiratory tract but also in the intestines. It is especially dogs not vaccinated against Rubarth’s Hepatitis that will be affected by these viruses.
  • The Canine Distemper Virus (or distemper virus ) can find in some cases. Especially when the kennel cough progresses to bronchopneumonia and the dog does not vaccinate against distemper.
  • The Canine Herpes Virus (HVC), less often associated with kennel cough that IPPC and CAV. It may be responsible for systemic infections in puppies. But in older dogs it remains localized in the upper respiratory tract.
  • Mycoplasmas: natural colonizers of the upper respiratory tract of dogs, they could take advantage of lesions caused by other pathogens to colonize the deep respiratory system (lungs).


The incubation of kennel cough disease is quite short, about 3 to 8 days. And the disease itself can last for several weeks.

The mildest form of the disease is dry tracheobronchitis. The dog has a dry, cavernous cough, which can sometimes cause regurgitation. A pinching of the larynx usually triggers a cough. It is also possible to observe sneezing or discharge (from the nose and / or eyes). Fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite are generally moderate.

Another more serious form of kennel cough exists, occurring either immediately in a dog or as a result of the mild form. It is a deeper involvement of the respiratory tract with bronchopneumonia. The fever is, in this case, more frequent and the general condition of the dog is more affected. This condition includes loss of appetite, fatigue, breathing difficulties. This form, sometimes fatal, will more easily affect dogs not regularly vaccinated against diseases such as distemper, Rubarth’s hepatitis, etc. (“CHPPi” vaccine), as well as more fragile dogs (puppies, old dogs, dogs weakened by another disease, stress, etc.)


The symptoms are quite suggestive of the disease, and the diagnosis is often facilitated by the context of stay in a community.

In the case of an isolated dog presenting with a cough, the diagnosis may be more complex and require additional examinations. Samples of excreta, smears, blood tests, x-rays will make it possible to clarify the diagnosis and possibly identify the agent. causal.

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Treatment of kennel cough

Antitussive treatment will start in case of dry cough that does not produce mucus.

In some cases, antibiotic treatment can prescribe for a few days. Even if the agent responsible for kennel cough is often viral. It can be useful to fight against possible secondary bacterial infections and secondary to lesions caused by viruses. This antibiotic treatment can administer in oral form (tablets) or in aerosol form (inhalations).

Kennel cough in dogs

Disease prevention

Before any stay in dog boarding or any participation in a dog gathering, it is advisable to have your animal vaccinated. This vaccine can carry out by injection under the skin or intranasally (administration of drops into the dog’s nose). The latter modality allowing the acquisition of protection in a few days.

In order to best protect the puppies, which are particularly sensitive, it will necessary to ensure that they are vaccinated from the age of 4 to 6 weeks (a vaccinated mother also contributes to better protection of the puppies) and to limit contact with other dogs. That the vaccination is not effective.

In breeding, living conditions are very important because any deterioration in the animal’s respiratory system can promote kennel cough. It is therefore necessary to ensure good air quality (ventilation, temperature, hygrometry), good general hygiene (disinfection, cleaning of bowls, waste places) as well as good organization of the premises (circulation in the breeding must protect the most fragile animals such as breeding females or puppies from any contamination).

In conclusion, kennel cough is a very contagious disease for the dog. While it is frequently benign, it can sometimes be more serious, even fatal, especially for weaker animals. Vaccination, whether specifically against kennel cough or more generally against diseases giving rise to systematic vaccination, provides good protection.