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Infectious Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough)

Infectious tracheobronchitis is an infection of the trachea and the large air passages of the lungs. Many different types of organisms cause the disease. It is very contagious and, therefore, spreads rapidly from one dog to another. It can be a potential problem in any confined area where there are a lot of dogs (kennels, grooming facilities, etc.).

Although your pet may seem to be alert and in general good health, you will notice a sudden onset of a dry harsh cough. The gagging up of some phlegm or foamy mucus will often follow this cough. Frequently, the pet owner mistakenly suspects that the dog has something caught in the throat. As the disease develops, signs of fever, purulent nasal discharge, depression, anorexia and a productive cough indicates a complicated systemic infection.


With treatment, recovery is usually complete, although medications may be necessary for weeks. Rarely does "kennel cough" cause pneumonia. If the doctor is suspicious, an X-ray of the lungs may be recommended.

Home care may consist of some or all of the following:

  • 1. Antibiotics
  • 2. Cough suppressants prescribed by the veterinarian
  • 3. Expectorants - to mobilize the mucus
  • 4. Tranquilizers - anxiety may stimulate more coughing
  • 5. Vaporizers - can prevent drying out of the wind pipe
  • 6. Limiting exercise - heavy breathing stimulates the cough

Please remember this problem usually sounds worse than it actually is. Collars may stimulate coughing by putting pressure on the throat. You may want to have your pet wear a harness for a short time or loop the leash around one of the front legs.

Notify the doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • 1. Worsening cough (with or without blood).
  • 2. Your pet stops eating.
  • 3. Your are unable to give the medication.
  • 4. Your pet becomes more depressed.


There is a vaccine to help prevent kennel cough. The vaccine cannot completely prevent the problem, but it helps a great deal. It should be given yearly, along with your pets other vaccines. A booster every six months is also recommended if your pet is routinely exposed to other dogs.