Kennel Cough

posted: by: AAC Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Etiology:  Bordetella bronchiseptica, a bacterial organism


Risk Factors:  Exposure to clinically ill animal in boarding and/or grooming facilities, shelters, pet shops, dog shows, public areas, catteries, multicat households, or strays.  Pets not vaccinated for Bordetella.


Transmission:  Through the air (aerosol)


Clinical Signs: 

  1. DOGS:  Dry, hacking/honking coughing fits. (Sounds like a bone caught in the throat).  Episodes may appear worse with excitement or exercise.  Other less common signs include nasal discharge, gagging, retching, anorexia, depression, and fever.  Condition is usually self-limiting and last 7-10 days.
  2. CATS:  Sneezing, serous ocular and/or nasal discharge, coughing, dry or wet rales, fever, lethargy, enlarged mandibular lymph nodes. May see conjunctivitis, bronchopneumonia, and death in severe cases.


Incubation Time:  36 hours to 10 days depending on the strain


Duration of Clinical Signs:  1 to 2 days up to several weeks


Carrier State:  Possible


Diagnosis:  Ideally, run CBC, Chem, UA, Heartworm Test, and Thoracic Rads to screen for other disorders.  Definitive diagnosis requires a positive culture obtained from nasal swabs, mouth or pharyngeal swabs, or tracheal washes.  A presumptive diagnosis may be made based on history, clinical signs, physical exam, and response to treatment.



  1. Restrict exercise & avoid excitement in dogs to decrease coughing
  2. Separate from other animals in household as transmission is highly likely
  3. Antibiotics, Antitussives, Bronchodilators, and Anti-inflammatories as indicated by clinical signs
  4. Some patients may benefit from humidification of fluid therapy to help thin and loosen airway secretions



  1. Routine disinfection of kennels, walls, floors, and bowls
  2. Washing hands after handling pet or bedding
  3. Isolate pet from well pets and minimize contact
  4. Vaccinate 2 weeks before potential exposure
  5. Vaccinate annually (duration of vaccine is 9 - 12 months)
  6. Vaccinate every 6 months if pet has high incidence of potential exposure (i.e. dog show, boarding, grooming, etc.)





Source: Compedium, Bordetella Infections In Dogs and Cats: Pathogenesis, Clinical Signs, and Diagnosis; Treatment and Prevention, Vol. 25, No. 12, December 2003, pp. 896-898, 902-912.