Kennel Cough - Treatment

By Tess Thompson

Kennel cough, or tracheobronchitis, is bronchitis that is marked by a dry, spasmodic cough, retching, sneezing, snorting or choking. It is characterized by inflammation of the upper respiratory system. It can be caused by either a viral or bacterial infection.

Tracheobronchitis is highly contagious and occurs when dogs are kept in crowded places with poor ventilation and a lot of warm air - places like boarding kennels, vaccination clinics, hospital waiting rooms, or any other such place where other infected dogs may be present.

Kennel cough in canines is equivalent, in some aspects, to the common cold in humans. The symptoms are characteristic and obvious enough for diagnosis. And just as the common cold caused by a virus requires no treatment, kennel cough in dogs also does not require any treatment if the condition has been caused due to a viral infection. The symptoms tend to go away within 10 days. However, the commonality between the common cold and kennel cough ends there, since instances of kennel cough that involve the distemper virus carry a high risk and are considered to be serious. Such cases need immediate attention to ensure that the progression of the disease is contained.

The canine respiratory tract has enough safeguards against bacterial invasion. These are present in the shape of hair-like structures, with a coat of mucous, that protrude from the cells lining the respiratory tract. When this protective mechanism is damaged, the invading bacteria, especially Bordetella bronchiseptica, can travel down the airways and cause kennel cough. Kennel cough caused by bacterial infection is also self-limiting. Treatment is limited to cough suppressants to provide relief, as natural recovery takes its course. There are some veterinarians who may recommend or insist on directly killing Bordetella bronchiseptica with the aid of antibiotics.

The stress caused by crowding, heavy dust exposure, and poor ventilation during shipping usually leads to kennel cough in dogs and especially in puppies. Such cases can lead to severe tracheobronchitis. Dry cough in puppies is commonly seen in pet stores. The incubation period of the virus is between two to twelve days, and owners usually come to know about the condition after that have bought home a very sick puppy. Vaccination during the incubation period proves ineffective, and therefore young puppies with symptoms of kennel cough need to be taken to a veterinarian for treatment. Kennel cough in puppies is also self-limiting, but if exposed to Bordetella bronchiseptica during a viral infection, it can lead to serious consequences for the young ones. The condition is known to progress to pneumonia, which can be life-threatening if timely treatment is not given.


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