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Kennel Cough: A Canine Outbreak

If you do a quick google search on kennel cough, you will see a flurry of news articles reporting kennel cough outbreaks throughout the United States and even other countries. These news articles are understandably very concerning for a dog owner, especially if you are planning on kenneling your pet while going on vacation or if you like to take them to the local dog park. You may be wondering why there are so many outbreaks when so many facilities require that dogs be vaccinated against the Bordetella vaccine. That’s because kennel cough is a common term for several highly contagious respiratory infections. Although your pet may be vaccinated against Bordetella, there are also several other viruses and organisms that can cause this respiratory infection. Proper vaccination of the distemper and Bordetella vaccines are imperative to protect your pets this summer. This article will help explain what kennel cough is, and what you can do to keep your dog’s safe this summer.

Kennel cough, otherwise known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is an umbrella term for a highly contagious respiratory infection generally caused by a combination of several viruses and bacteria. This infection is spread through respiratory secretions (aerosol droplets) as a result from sneezing and/or coughing. High dog-populated areas put pets at most risk for transmission such as –

  • Kenneling facilities
  • Training facilities
  • Dog Day Care
  • Animal Shelters
  • Grooming salons

As mentioned above, kennel cough may result from a combination of viruses and bacteria, including –

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Adenovirus type 2
  • Canine distemper virus
  • Canine influenza virus
  • Canine herpesvirus
  • Mycoplasma canis
  • Canine reovirus
  • Canine respiratory coronavirus

There are vaccines which help protect our dogs against many of these organisms including the distemper vaccine, which is a combination vaccine that includes the canine distemper virus, adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, and parvovirus. The Bordetella vaccine protects against the bacterium bordetella bronchiseptica. It is vital before introducing your pet to a large group of dogs that they be properly vaccinated. This will greatly reduce the chances of your pet contracting kennel cough, and if they do become ill, it will likely lessen the severity of their infection.

Symptoms of kennel cough can vary from mild to severe. The most common clinical sign of kennel cough is most notably a dry hacking cough which may be accompanied by a slight loss of appetite and clear nasal discharge. Dogs with mild cases of kennel cough are generally self-limiting and show no decrease in activity levels. With rest and proper nutrition, symptoms generally go away within a couple weeks. To help with the hacking cough, your doctor may prescribe a cough suppressant to make your dog more comfortable. More severe infections include symptoms such as a wet sounding cough which can cause the dog to bring up mucous, thick discolored discharge from the nose, fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. In these cases, a bacterial infection has most likely developed which is affecting the lungs, so the doctor will most likely prescribe a course of antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection.

As mentioned above, there are two primary methods of preventing kennel cough: Proper vaccination of the Distemper and Bordetella vaccines and avoidance of high-populated areas. Because there are many different virulent organisms involved, vaccination does not guarantee 100% protection in your dog, but it can certainly lessen the severity of symptoms. The safest thing to do to prevent kennel cough is avoid areas where there are high concentrations of other dogs.

To learn more about vaccination schedules, kennel cough, or other potential causes of your dog’s coughing, please contact us at 717.532.5413.


Tracheobronchitis in small animals. Merck Veterinary Manual website.

American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Canine Vaccination Task Force. 2017 AAHA canine vaccination guidelines. AAHA website.

Kennel cough in dogs. Veterinary Partner Website. Powered by VIN.