Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis - Kennel Cough in Boxers

Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease affecting the respiratory system of dogs. It has a high morbidity rate and symptoms are more severe in puppies, older dogs, and debilitating dogs. These part of the dog population often suffer from bronchopneumonia.

The major modes of infection of Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis are through coughing, sneezing, or nose to nose contact.

What are the Signs and Symptoms I should watch out for in my dogs?

The first noticeable sign is a sudden onset of a severe productive or non-productive cough made worse by exercise, excitement, or the pressure exerted by the dog’s collar on the neck. You might suspect that your dog may have a bone or an object stuck in its throat because the sound of the cough is so severe. The cough may be often dry and followed by a retching. There may also be a watery nasal discharge present.

Dogs suffering from Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis have a recent history of spending time in a boarding kennel or a dog pound, hospitalization, or exposure to a dog that showed similar signs.

When uncomplicated in mild cases, dogs with kennel cough are basically healthy except for the cough. But secondary bacterial infection or other respiratory complications can occur in the immuno-compromised group of very young unvaccinated puppies, dogs with immune defects, and old and debilitated dogs. How will I get a definitive diagnosis?

When you bring your dog to a veterinarian, he will take swabs from the nose and washings from the trachea and lower respiratory tract. These will be cultured in the laboratory to be able to get the right identification of the causative agent. But there may be false positive results because Bordetella bronchiseptica can often be isolated from the nose or throats of healthy dogs. Thus, doing cultures of the transtracheal and endotracheal wash fluid is often the best way to get a definitive diagnosis.

A detailed history of the patient as well as the clinical signs will also help the veterinarian make a definitive diagnosis and enable him to plan a course of treatment.

What is the course of treatment of Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis?

Mild cases may or may not be treated with antibiotics. You can easily acquire these medications from your veterinarian. Bronchodilators or cough suppressants may also help alleviate the disease condition.

But in severe or complicated cases of kennel cough where it develops into pneumonia, it is best to bring your dog to the veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. Antibiotics are mandatory for severe cases but not steroid or cough suppressants because of the risk of developing immunosuppression with steroids. There is a need to evacuate and clear the respiratory passages of mucous in dogs which developed pneumonia. Your veterinarian may also give bronchodilators including aerosol therapy. Remember that pneumonia is a life threatening condition if not given attention and treatment the soonest possible time.

The moment that you observe your dog with a hacking cough with nasal and eye discharges, loss of appetite and lethargy, you should readily make an appointment with your veterinarian.

How can I protect my dog from Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis?

Unvaccinated dogs particularly young puppies should not be exposed to other dogs. But oftentimes it is next to impossible to keep your dogs at home and live a solitary life.

The best option to protect your dog is to vaccinate against the disease. But since Kennel Cough is caused by plethora of bacteria and viruses, your dog can only be protected from some of the agents that cause the disease but not all. Vaccines do not provide a hundred percent protection from the disease but they can help reduce the severity of the disease if ever your dog becomes infected.

Vaccines for Kennel Cough are of two types: the intranasal and injectable form. With the injectable form, your dog needs at least 2 initial doses 2-4 weeks apart while you only need one initial dose for the intranasal form to provide protection. An annual vaccination is required in both types.

The onset of protection offered by the intranasal form of the vaccine is shorter compared to the injectable form. But there have been occasional coughing noted after a dog has been vaccinated using the intranasal vaccine.

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