how to diagnose kennel cough

How to diagnose kennel cough in dogs


In this article we will review how to diagnose kennel cough and discuss appropriate prevention measures. In general, kennel cough is mostly characterized by a dry and strong cough. This cough is accompanied by a clear to thick discharge from the eyes or nose. More serious forms can manifest with fever, fatigue and a fatty cough which can lead to the death of the dog.

Symptoms usually appear 3 to 10 days after infection. But be careful, your dog can be a carrier and vector of the disease without showing any visible signs for several weeks.

These symptoms last for a few days to several weeks. Many factors can influence the duration of the pathology such as the condition of the dog, the number of pathogens involved or the density of the dog population in the immediate environment.

propagation of kennel cough

Transmission of pathogens

A large number of pathogens, viruses or bacteria, are responsible for kennel cough. For some, they can cause kennel cough on their own. For others, they work in combination to make the disease break out. In this case, the symptoms are often worse and the treatment is more complicated.

Pathogens are transmitted by respiratory secretions, by direct contact or through objects in the environment (clothing, hands, bowls, etc.)

Types of kennel cough pathogens

The 3 main agents most often found are canine adenovirus, para influenza and bordetella bronchiseptica.

Canine para inluenza and adenovirus

These two viruses are transmitted through respiratory secretions from 3 to 4 days up to 14 days after infection. Then the contagion is much weaker. The adenovirus virus is very resistant in the outdoor environment. For disinfection we recommend Spectragen (1% dilution, 10ml in 1 L of water). The para influenza virus is much more sensitive, so a standard disinfectant like alviral is sufficient.

pathogens causing the disease

Bordetella brochiseptica

Bordetella brochiseptica can infect an individual without triggering a reaction for weeks or months, leaving ample time for this bacterium to spread. Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most resistant pathogen. It can stay in the soil for up to 45 days. Bordetella bronchiseptica is sensitive to very specific disinfectants such as odophyl.

How to diagnose kennel cough

It is important to properly diagnose this disease, which requires strict hygiene measures to eradicate its spread. Clinical signs and recent contact with other congeners should alert you. It is preferable to identify the pathogens in order to put in place the appropriate sanitary measures, which will require a blood test.

There is also a rapid test to detect the presence of adenovirus in eye fluids. The animal health science is also working on the development of rapid tests for other pathogens.

Treatment of kennel cough

Treatment of kennel cough

Once you know how to diagnose kennel cough, you need to understand how treat it. Treatment starts with a review of the dog’s environment and the identification of the risk factors.

Places where the dog population is in high density favor the propagation of kennel cough such as community life and frequent participation to dog shows. The greater the number of animals in your dog’s environment, the higher is the risk. In these situations, you must therefore be vigilant to limit the spread of pathogens by respecting the following rules.

Implement forward walking and sectorization

The transmission of pathogens occurs mainly from person to person. It is therefore essential to separate suspicious dogs from sensitive animals such as puppies. The practice of forward walking is important in order to protect the most vulnerable animals.

prevent transmission of the disease

It is also advisable to quarantine dogs that leave the kennel for dog shows or from other kennels. This quarantine is strongly recommended if you have a litter.

Maintain body temperature to limit the risk of infection

The temperature of young puppies is very important during their first 4 weeks. You must therefore ensure that it is maintained via lamps and heated mats. You must also insulate your litters and dogs from the cold concrete or tiled areas with straws, blankets, etc.

Hygrometry & Ventilation

By following hygrometry and ventilation standards required in dog breeding, you will limit the survival of pathogens.

Of course, cleaning and disinfection must be carried out on livestock buildings regularly to reduce the presence of parasites. If there is a kennel cough, it is advisable to use a disinfectant suitable for the pathogen.

The immunity conferred by breast milk in puppies tends to decrease around 6 weeks, therefore it is advisable to reinforce the disinfection plans at 4 weeks and up to 9 weeks (i.e. one week after the first vaccinations).

Kennel cough vaccination


Vaccination can effectively fight against kennel cough, but it does not provide 100% protection because vaccines do not act against all pathogens. Also, a vaccine protects, but does not prevent infection. A dog can therefore be a carrier of the pathogens targeted by the vaccine by being a healthy carrier or by having poorly developed symptoms.

Treatment of kennel cough requires the intervention of the veterinarian. In general, a bronchodilator and a cough suppressant are sufficient, but the use of antibiotics and corticosteroids are sometimes necessary to stop the progression.


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