Kennel Cough and Colds

Excerpted from Kennel Cough by Randy Kidd, DVM, PhD

The two most common afflictions of the respiratory system are the “common cold” and kennel cough. Both of these ailments are usually instigated by any of a number of viruses, often followed by secondary bacterial invasion. The severity of the symptoms varies widely, but in most “colds” they are mild and include wheezing, coughing, reluctance to move, and perhaps a mild fever.

Kennel cough (a.k.a. infectious tracheobronchitis), on the other hand, can produce symptoms that appear extreme, with a dry, hacking cough accompanied by frequent, intense gagging. I’ve had caretakers rush their kennel-coughing dog in to see me, thinking he has a bone caught in his throat. Despite its appearance, a typical case of kennel cough is not life-threatening, and it tends to run its course in a few days to a week or so. But it is a disease that is frustrating for pet and caretaker alike.

Kennel cough results from inflammation of the upper airways. The instigating pathogen may be any number of irritants, viruses, or other microorganisms, or the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica may act as a primary pathogen. The prominent clinical sign is paroxysms of a harsh, dry cough, which may be followed by retching and gagging. The cough is easily induced by gentle pressure applied to the larynx or trachea.

Kennel cough should be expected whenever the characteristic cough suddenly develops 5 to 10 days after exposure to other dogs – especially to dogs from a kennel (especially a shelter) environment. Usually the symptoms diminish during the first five days, but the disease may persist for up to 10-20 days. Kennel cough is almost always more annoying (to dog and her caretaker) than it is a serious event.

For advice on preventing kennel cough as well as natural and effective ways to soothe the symptoms, purchase Kennel Cough from Whole Dog Journal.