Kennel Cough

Infectious Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough)


Canine infectious tracheobronchitis, more commonly known as “kennel cough,” is a highly contagious respiratory disease complex.  It refers to many infectious conditions in dogs that manifests as coughing, eye or nasal discharge, and occasionally bronchopneumonia.  There are several bacterial and viral causes including Bordetella bronchiseptica, parainfluenza virus, canine influenza, and canine adenovirus 2. 

What are the clinical signs?

Signs of the disease complex may vary, but dogs will often have a loud “goose honk” cough that can last for several weeks.  Other symptoms are runny eyes and nose, decreased appetite, and lethargy.  In severe cases, dogs may develop a secondary pneumonia. 

How does my dog get it?

Infectious tracheobronchitis is a highly contagious disease transmitted via respiratory secretions from close contact with other dogs.  Affected dogs usually have a recent history of being in environments with many other dogs such as boarding facilities, groomers, dog parks, or veterinary hospitals. 

How is it diagnosed?

Clinical diagnosis is usually made based on history of exposure, physical signs, and vaccine history.  However, in complicated cases x-rays or labwork may be needed to determine the severity of the disease.

What is the treatment?

There is no treatment for viral infections so treatment goals are aimed at preventing secondary bacterial infections that are the cause of many of the clinical signs.  Most infections resolve in 1-3 weeks, but some dogs may need longer treatment. 

How can I prevent infectious tracheobronchitis?

Most core vaccine programs will include parainfluenza and adenovirus.  Bordetella vaccination is not a core vaccine, but should be considered for dogs that go to kennels for boarding, groomers, or interact with other dogs.  Protection against Bordetella however can be variable and sometimes as short as 3-6 months.  A vaccine schedule should be discussed with your veterinarian depending on your dog’s lifestyle. 

Can I get Kennel Cough?

Zoonosis with the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica can occur; mainly in immunocompromised people.  Please contact your physician if you have any concerns. 



Côté, Etienne. Clinical Veterinary Advisor. St. Louis: Elsevier Mosby, 2011.  Print.

Day, Michael J et al.  “Surveillance of Zoonotic Infectious Disease Transmitted by Small Companion Animals.” CDC.  Online report Volume 18, Number 12 (2012).  Web.  7 January 2015.

Mitchell, Kelly.  “Tracheobronchitis in Small Animals.”  The Merck Veterinary Manual, March 2012.  Web.  7 January 2015. 

Ward, Ernest. Kennel Cough or Tracheobronchitis in Dogs.  Lifelearn Inc, 2011.