Kennel cough is an upper respiratory infection affecting dogs. It is caused by a combination of the canine parainfluenza virus and the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica. It is highly contagious. Kennel cough is so named because the infection can spread quickly among dogs in the close quarters of a kennel or animal shelter.
Viral and bacterial causes of canine cough are spread through airborne droplets produced by sneezing and coughing. These agents also spread through contact with contaminated surfaces. Most causes of kennel cough are highly contagious, even days or weeks after symptoms disappear. Symptoms usually begin two to three days after exposure, and can progress to lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia. This disease is not a zoonose, i.e. it cannot be transmitted to humans.
Incubation period is 3–4 days. Symptoms can include a harsh, dry cough, retching, sneezing, snorting, gagging or vomiting in response to light pressing of the trachea or after excitement or exercise. The presence of a fever varies from case to case. The disease can last initially from 10 to 20 days and can rebreak when the dog is put into a stressful situation which puts stress on the dog's immune system.
Treatment and prevention
Antibiotics are given to treat any bacterial infection present. Cough suppressants are used if the cough is not productive. Prevention is by vaccinating for canine adenovirus, distemper, parainfluenza, and Bordetella. In kennels, the best prevention is to keep all the cages disinfected. In some cases, such as Doggie Daycares or Non-Traditional Playcare type boarding environments, it is usually not a cleaning or disinfecting issue, but rather an airborne issue, as the dogs are in contact with each other's saliva and breath. Although most kennels require proof of vaccination, the vaccination is not a fail-safe preventative. Just like human influenza, even after receiving the vaccination, a dog can still contract mutated strains or less severe cases.