Kennel cough is a popular name given to a variety of infections that cause damage to the pharynx, trachea and bronchi. These include the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica (a relative of the whooping cough bacteria Bordetella pertussis), and a variety of viruses including parainfluenza and adenovirus types CAV-1 and CAV-2. Bordetella can also cause ‘kennel cough’ in cats.
An affected pet is bright and alert but has a harsh, dry, non-productive cough. Pinching the windpipe triggers a cough. Puppies, small dogs prone to tracheal collapse, individuals suffering from chronic bronchitis and those with reduced resistance to infection are susceptible to secondary bacterial infection in the lungs, pneumonia. This is a serious complication. These pets have a fever, are depressed and may be uninterested in food. The cough is more moist sounding. There may be wheezing and rapid breathing.
If your pet has kennel cough isolate her from other pets for the first week of coughing to prevent spread. A warm, dry, well ventilated environment is ideal. We usually treat with antibiotics and avoiding excitement or strenuous exercise although moderate daily exercise is good for the lungs. Complicated kennel cough requires rest, antibiotics and sometimes other drugs to suppress coughing or dilate the air passages. An air humidifier makes an affected pet feel more comfortable.
Kennel cough is a misnomer in that it is not only contracted in kennels. It is caused by highly infectious airborne agents, readily transmitted when one (carrier) pet meets another. Annual vaccination is the best form of prevention.