Kennel Cough


This disease is highly infectious and very prevalent in areas where large numbers of dogs are kept within the same airspace. This includes kennels from which the commonly used term “kennel cough” originates but also can include training centres and dog show venues.


Every dog already has a number of micro organisms present within the upper respiratory tract, one of these is Bordetella bronchisseptica, which when exposed to certain viruses can develop into various upper respiratory disease. Infection occurs from direct dog-to-dog contact or aerosol transmissions (sneezing or coughing) of microorganisms. This means that both a virus and a bacteria acting together are the cause of CCRD.


The type of virus involved governs the type of symptoms presented and the severity of the disease. Following inhalation the microorganisms rapidly colonise in the lining of the airway. This leads to acute inflammatory reaction within approximately 4 days of transmission.


The most classic symptom is a dry non-productive cough often induced by excitement, exercise or sudden change in the environmental temperature. Many owners describe a sudden outburst of coughing which induces retching and sometimes vomiting. A clear nasal discharge is usually present and this can, if a secondary bacterial infection takes hold, become a thick mucopurulent discharge. Most dogs usually remain bright and appetite not affected. In some instances, usually those involving individuals that already have compromised immune symptoms (elderly, very young, those on steroids) the condition can develop more serious symptoms as the infection spreads to the lower respiratory system, they can also take much longer to fully recover.


Your vet will usually prescribe antibiotics in those instances to help combat the secondary bacterial infection. Other things you can do to help are the use of Anti-tussants (cough medicine) such as codeine and linctus or benilyn non drowsy. (Always check with your vet first before employing such treatments). Also, for those who are really congested, steam and a little olbas oil is a great help at dilating the airways.


Recovery can be up to 14 days but for those who are more affected it will take longer, months even. Affected dogs should be isolated in the sense that they should not socialise with other dogs until about 5 days after the symptoms have ceased. It is also a kennel club requirement that dogs should not be shown for 21 days after symptoms have ceased if diagnosed with an infectious disease. Be aware that any dog that came into contact with an affected dog 5-7 days before the symptoms developed could also have CCRD, so try and let other owners know so they can also take the necessary precautions.


This disease is rarely life threatening but can be quite unpleasant. There are now a number of vaccines available to aid in the prevention of CCRD. Some variants of CCRD are covered in your dog's annual booster given via an injection by your vet. There is also an intra nasal spray. This is a live vaccine that provides more localised immunisation, and lasts between 6-12 months depending on the type of vaccine used.


Vaccination is either a weak or inactivated variant of the disease, that once administered initialises an immune response. This means that if the dog is exposed to a similar microorganism it is able to recognise it and develop the correct antibodies to fight off the disease.


Homoeopathically you can use Kennel Cough nosodes as a prevention, again this is a weaker variant of the actual disease. Whichever preventative measure you choose, bare in mind that none are 100% affective, and occasionally vaccinated dogs still contract the disease. It is however better than nothing at helping prevent what can be a very unpleasant and debilitating condition. (Please note that some veterinarians will often advised that a swab be taken to identify the specific type of bacteria associated with an outbreak of kennel cough in order to select an appropriate antibiotic treatment.


Also, please ensure that any cough medicine administered is appropriate for use in dogs and that it does not contain Paracetamol, which can be harmful to dogs. Always check with your vet before administering any medications. LCGB Health Committee, with thanks to Louise McCutcheon.)