Canine Cough: A misunderstood dog disease called “canine cough” today causes one of the public relations problems for boarding kennels. Tracheobronchitis, or often improperly referred to as “kennel cough”. As a dog owner you should be aware of some of the facts about this disease.
What is “canine cough”? Infectious tracheobronchitis is a highly contagious upper-respiratory disease, which is spread by an airborne virus. The incubation period of the disease is roughly 3 to 7 days. The main symptom is a gagging cough, sometimes accompanied by sneezing and nasal discharge, which can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Although this coughing is very annoying, it does not usually develop into anything more serious. However, just as with the common cold, it can lower the dog’s resistance to other disease making him susceptible to secondary infections, and so he must be observed closely to avoid complications.
How is it cured? Just as in the case of the common cold, tracheobronchitis is not “cured” but must run its course. Many times antibiotics will be prescribed to prevent secondary infection, and sometimes cough suppressants will be prescribed to reduce excessive coughing, but these medications do not attack the disease itself.
Does tracheobronchitis occur only in kennels? No. Since these viruses can be present anywhere, and can travel for considerable distances through the air, they can affect any dog… even one which never leaves it own back yard. But tracheobronchitis is more likely to occur when the concentration of dogs is greater such as at dog shows, kennels, veterinarian offices and hospitals, as well as pet shops. Dogs can also be exposed while running lose or while being walked near other dogs.
But aren’t the chances of catching it greater when a dog is in a kennel? Yes… because in a kennel a dog encounters two conditions which do not exist at home… proximity to a number of potentially contagious dogs, and the stress and excitement of a less familiar environment, which can result in lowered resistance to disease (these same factors explain why children are more likely to catch the flu in school rather than at home). But the more frequently a dog boards at a kennel the greater are the chances that he will acquire an immunity to the disease. Even during a widespread outbreak, only a fairly small percentage of exposed dogs are affected.
Are these viruses a constant problem? No. Tracheobronchitis, like the flu is often seasonal and it also tends to be epidemic. When veterinarians begin to see cases, they normally come from every kennel in town, as well as from individual dog owners whose dogs were not kenneled at all. When the outbreak is over, they might not see another case for months.
Can my dog be vaccinated to protect him against tracheobronchitis? Yes! Vaccines against parainfluenza and adenovirus type 2 (in combination with other vaccines) are routinely used as part of an adult dog’s yearly check up. Puppies are usually vaccinated for these in combination with distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus in a series of immunizations. It is important to note that the vaccines that re used to prevent this viral disease are made from one strain of over 100 different strains of the virus and therefore are not as effective against some strains as others. Intra-nasal vaccines are also available.