Kennel Cough , Canine Cough Or Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis
"Kennel cough" is caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria, all producing quite similar clinical signs, dry, non-productive coughing. Coughing occurs because these germs temporarily destroy the hair-like projections (cilia) that protectively line the upper respiratory tract. In the absence of protective cilia irritants are not wafted out of the system. As well pathogenic microorganisms have a chance to move deeper into the system. The most important cause is a bacteria, Bordetella bronchiseptica, a relative of the bacteria that causes whooping cough in people. In London, this is sometimes called “Battersea Cough” because historically, dogs that visited Battersea Dogs Home were routinely exposed to it.
The most common viral causes of canine cough are parainfluenza virus and canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2), a close relative of canine hepatitis virus (CAV-1). Around five days after airborne exposure to one of these germs an affected individual develops a honking cough.
Uncomplicated infection resolves after 10-14 days but complications, caused by opportunist infections are common. These cause any of lethargy, fever, eye or noses discharges, loss of appetite and sticky saliva at the corners of the mouth. There may be paroxysms of coughing and accompanying retching. We sometimes take tracheal washes to isolate the exact cause of a cough.
Cough suppressants reduce paroxysms of dry coughing and make a dog more comfortable but we use them sparingly as we want your dog to cough up any foreign material. Antibiotics are used on individuals at risk or those with lung involvement. Bronchodilators are sometimes dispensed for dogs with narrowed air passages. Medication to break down mucus is also sometimes used. In some circumstances corticosteroid is needed to suppress coughing and reduce inflammation.
Environments where kennel cough has occurred should be cleaned with half hour exposure to chlorine bleach, diluted 1:32 in water. Intranasal Bordetella vaccine stimulates local immunity within the respiratory tract but this is relatively short-lived, a year or less. The primary vaccination we give protects against parainfluenza and CAV-2. These reduce but do not eliminate risk of kennel cough.
Although it is uncommon, Bordetella can also cause ‘kennel cough’ in cats. In rare circumstances we may suggest vaccinating your cat against this infection.