Infectious tracheobronchitis is a contagious disease of the upper respiratory tract, which includes the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (large air passages in the lungs). The tem 'kennel cough' is a non specific term for a contagious upper respiratory tract infection causing a dry, hacking cough.
Sometimes changes in the environment will cause dogs to develop a harsh, throaty cough. Owners often get the impression that their dog has 'got something stuck in his throat'. This is very common when a new pet is obtained, be it from an individual, humane shelter, or pet shop. Kennel cough can also be associated with vacations away from home, weather changes, boarding, or even a visit to the groomer. When away from home, many dogs often do a lot of barking which can cause irritation in the throat, making it more susceptible to bronchitis. The normal healthy body is very resistant to infection, but changes resulting in any form of stress (such as barking) can lower the body’s resistance to disease, allowing bronchitis to develop.
Many viruses and bacteria can be normal inhabitants of the pet’s body causing no problem until stress lowers the resistance. Even though boarding kennels (including ours) do everything possible to keep your pet healthy, there are some factors, such as the stress of barking, we simply cannot control.
The most common sign of kennel cough is a harsh, dry cough that is often followed by gagging and coughing up foamy mucus. Otherwise, the patient appears alert and generally healthy. The disease is very contagious among dogs, but it does not affect people. The disease is usually self-limiting. This means that, unless complications (such as pneumonia) occur, the signs usually disappear in 1-3 weeks.
Antibiotics and/or other supportive treatments can help decrease the clinical signs and length of illness. Ordinarily, no special diet is required. Exercise stimulates coughing and should be severely restricted. Sudden changes in air temperature or pressure on the neck from collars and leashes may also stimulate coughing.
Fortunately, there is a vaccine available for one of the major causes of canine coughing—the so-called “kennel cough.” Bordetella bronchiseptica is a highly contagious bacteria that is one of the major causes of the coughing syndrome. Vaccination is required for all boarding and grooming patients at most kennels and veterinary hospitals.
Vaccination is NO GUARANTEE that bronchitis will not develop, but it does provide some protection. With some Kennel Cough vaccines, 1/20th of dogs getting the vaccines will actually get a very mild version of the disease from the vaccine itself. The vaccine is usually applied intranasally - i.e. squirted up the nose of the dog, where it is absorbed across the nasal mucosa. This can be quite stressful for a nervous dog - and for the vet administering it too!
Should your pet develop a cough after boarding or a visit to the groomer, please understand that it probably is not the fault of the facility, just as it wouldn't be the fault of a bus operator if you were to catch a cold off another passenger who sneezed near you.