Canine Equivalent of the Common Cold

Written by Dr Marion Welch

Kennel cough is an upper respiratory disease that is very infectious from dog to dog. 

Despite its name it is not restricted to kennel situations; in fact these days it is commonly called canine cough.

It is an infection of the wind pipe or trachea and causes a hacking cough often with a gag at the end. 

The trachea becomes very sensitive so that touching the neck or the pressure of the collar when the dog is on the lead can be enough to set off a bout of coughing.

Dogs can cough for as long as three weeks and while it is rarely fatal, it causes distress and discomfort to the dog. 

Sometimes people think they are vomiting as dogs may gag up lots of frothy white fluid, but generally fluid from the stomach is yellow from stomach bile.

Usually dogs still eat and while they can be distressed from the coughing and a bit off colour, they are usually not seriously ill. 

Kennel cough is very infectious and could be considered like the human cold. 

It is carried from dog to dog in coughed fluid droplets so it is common where dogs are mixing together such as at boarding kennels, dog shows or even playing together at a dog park. 

Any dog that is out and about where other dogs frequent is liable to pick up this infection.

Kennel cough is really a syndrome rather than a disease caused by a single organism. 

Up to seven organisms have been implicated in this cough but Bordatella which is a bacteria and Parainfluenza which is a virus are the most important and these are the two against which we can vaccinate.

Treatment for kennel cough may involve antibiotics to treat the bacteria Bordatella and perhaps a cough mixture to give the dog and owner a break from endless coughing. 

Sometimes cortisone is used to settle the cough and coughing dogs need to be kept at home to avoid spreading the infection.