Friday, September 30, 2016 | NHS Animal Medical Department
“Kennel cough” is a term used to describe common bacterial and viral respiratory infections in dogs. Kennel cough does not always manifest as coughing as the name implies. A more accurate term for this condition is canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC). CIRDC is commonly seen in dogs that have been exposed other dogs such as in an animal shelters, boarding facilities, dog parks and competitions.
Coughing, sneezing and nasal/eye discharge are among the more common clinical signs we see in dogs at the Nebraska Humane Society. These mild signs generally resolve in 1-2 weeks. In rare cases, CIRDC can cause serious disease, such as pneumonia. Sick dogs can become dehydrated if they are not eating or drinking adequately. In such cases, hospitalization may be needed.
Treatment generally consists of supportive care and time to allow the dog’s immune system to do its job. Antibiotics may be prescribed if a bacterial infection is suspected. Antitussives or expectorants tend to be of little benefit to reducing coughing and mucus caused by kennel cough. Maintaining proper nutrition and hydration, minimizing excitement and preventing excess tugging/pulling on the trachea also aid in the treatment of kennel cough. Exercise for the sake of itself should be avoided while a dog is being treated for kennel cough. Instead, focus on quiet time in the backyard to use the restroom. Dogs can generally resume normal activity after clinical signs resolve.
CIRDC is contagious to other dogs. Many dogs are vaccinated for kennel cough, especially if they have frequent contact with other dogs, such as during boarding, grooming, or competitions. However, the vaccine is not 100% protective so it is a good idea to isolate dogs that are showing signs of the disease and to wash your hands after handling sick dogs. In general, we recommend isolating all new arrivals in your household for 7-10 days after adoption to give them a chance to settle in and to reduce the risk of transmitting infectious disease.
One cause of CIRDC, Bordetella bronchiseptica, can be contracted by cats and rarely can infect a severely immunocompromised person (for example – a person with AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy). If someone in your family is immunocompromised, please contact your physician prior to adopting a new pet.
Any dogs with signs of illness should not be taken to public dog places like dog parks, boarding facilities, pet stores or competitions. See your veterinarian for more information.
It is very important that you take your new pet to a veterinarian for a complete examination within 3 days of adoption (consult your adoption contract and associated adoption policies).
With rest and good care, many dogs will recover from CIRDC in 1-2 weeks. Please contact your veterinarian if your dog has any of the following signs: yellow or green discharge from the nose or eyes, excessive coughing, difficulty breathing, not eating or drinking for more than 24 hours, or a significant decrease in activity. Your veterinarian may recommend treatments such as antibiotics and supportive care.
Adopters are highly encouraged to partner with their veterinarian. Any medical expenses incurred while treating your newly adopted dog and/or existing household pets are the responsibility of the adopter. Thank you for saving a life!