Canine Cough, previously known as 'Kennel Cough' is a contagious upper respiratory condition that can be a problem wherever dogs group together, not just in kennels. Vaccination with a vaccine that includes kennel cough is recommended for prevention of the disease, and is required by most kennels before your dog goes into boarding.

What is canine cough?

Canine cough refers to infection of the upper respiratory tract, resulting in the sudden onset of a severe cough. The cough is often exacerbated by exercise, excitement, or pressure by the collar on the neck. Common symptoms include:

  • A persistent, hacking dry cough (some owners describe it as a 'honking' sound)
  • retching and gagging, coughing up white foamy phlegm, especially after exercise or pulling against the collar
  • otherwise healthy, eating normally
  • occasionally a nasal discharge
  • fever and lethargy in more severe cases

It is caused by one or more airborne microbes including a virus (parainfluenza virus) and a bacterium (Bordetella bronchiseptica). It is highly infectious and spreads quickly through a boarding kennel, veterinary hospital, training class, show, park or other places where dogs associate.

How is canine cough treated?

Uncomplicated canine cough is self-limiting, with signs abating in up to a week. In these cases the dog is otherwise bright, and eating normally. Rest is recommended to reduce the amount of coughing, which can continue to irritate the upper respiratory tract. Cough suppressants may be indicated.

If the dog is lethargic, depressed, or inappetant, antibiotics are often prescribed.

How is canine cough prevented?

Vaccination with a vaccine that includes canine cough is recommended. Although vaccination is not a guarantee against developing canine cough, the presence of antibodies in the system means that the course of the disease will be shorter, and the signs will be less severe. A previously unvaccinated adult dog will require a booster in 3 – 4 weeks. An intra-nasal vaccine can be given as a single dose to dogs over 7-8 weeks of age.

Because it can be quite debilitating and puppies are encouraged to socialise and attend puppy preschools these days, most veterinarians recommend Canine Cough vaccination for puppies as part of their routine vaccination programme.