It is the first day home with your new puppy. You have prepared everything: puppy-proofed the house, bought a cozy new bed, picked out a nutritious brand of puppy chow and made an appointment with your veterinarian for a routine well-check and vaccinations. In the kennel he seemed healthy, happy and rambunctious. Now that he has been home for 24 hours he has started to cough – is it just stress? He seems bright and alert, but the coughing seems to be getting worse. Could this be Kennel Cough?
The answer to that question is yes, there is a very good chance that your dog has canine infectious tracheobronchitis (CITB). This condition is more commonly known as Kennel Cough due to its most obvious symptom: cough, and the fact that it is common to animals in group living situations such as kennels. The infection is highly contagious, so if you suspect that your dog has kennel cough, it is important to keep your pet isolated from other dogs and cats until he has been treated and is no longer showing symptoms.
The cause of kennel cough is multi-factorial, meaning that it is due to more than one causative factor. It is usually a primary viral illness complicated by a secondary bacterial infection. There are a certain viruses such as canine parainfluenza and canine adenovirus type 2 that are commonly implicated in kennel cough infections. Other viruses however, can play a role. Infections usually involve both viruses together, and are complicated by secondary bacterial infections with Bordetella bronchiseptica. These and other bacteria are able to cause infections because host immune defenses are compromised by the concurrent viral infection. A healthy dog may harbor the same bacteria but never become ill because his immune system prevents an infection before it has a chance to take hold and cause sickness.
Kennel cough is usually uncomplicated and resolves with proper care; it is only in rare cases that it causes severe illness. It is still important to see your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. Treatment usually consists of broad-spectrum antibiotics, cough suppressants and fluids if needed. Your vet may also perform blood work and other diagnostics such as tracheal washes in order to isolate the causative organism and best determine the course of treatment. Once your pet has fully recovered, it is important to make sure that all his vaccines are kept up to date, including his Bordetella vaccine.