Canine Cough? It’s Still Out There!

If you live in Steamboat and own a dog you’ve probably heard about “Kennel Cough” or Bordatella infection.  We see outbreaks of this pretty much every year in Steamboat but this year seems to be particularly bad.  We are still seeing cases trickle in and this year’s outbreak started in November.

Kennel cough is not caused solely by Bordatella and we see it in other places besides kennels.   This disease spreads much like colds do in people so we see it in areas where dogs go to be social and interact more frequently. We live in a unique mountain town where people are very active with their dogs and many people don’t have fenced yards. Right now we are seeing it in dogs from neighborhoods all over town and dogs that frequent the dog park.    We see canine cough cases year round but do seem to have more outbreaks in the winter months likely because people visit the dog park more and dogs are confined to snow trails and more likely to contact each other.

While outbreaks of coughing dogs are not new, how we treat them has evolved over the past few years thanks to new vaccines and affordable testing.  At Pet Kare Clinic we use an oral Bordatella vaccine made by Boehringer Ingelheim.  This company wants to know if their product is working so encourages us to send in cultures (for free) on coughing dogs that have been vaccinated with their product.  What that has allowed us to do is identify what the infectious agents are each year. At $250 each these cultures were not financially feasible in the past, especially for a disease that we were used to treating based upon clinical signs.  In the past many dogs would get antibiotics as bordatella responds to antibiotics.  For some dogs with minor signs we would just let the disease run its course. For all dogs we would tell people to keep them isolated until they stopped coughing. Since we started culturing we have found out our Steamboat dogs do not carry Bordatella, but Mycoplasma instead.  What is interesting about Mycoplasma from a “dog community health standpoint” is that dogs can have no clinical signs but continue to shed it and infect other dogs for 2 to 3 months if they are not treated appropriately with a course of antibiotics.  This is huge! No wonder outbreaks continue.  The free cultures have given us the ability to know exactly what we are treating and to treat it for the appropriate amount of time.  It’s better for the individual dog as we are treating with the appropriate antibiotic and preventing the bacteria from hanging around in the dog’s system for a long period of time. It is also much better for the community as a whole as we can hopefully prevent dogs without symptoms from spreading the Mycoplasma infection to the next unsuspecting dog and on and on….

It is a very treatable disease but the pathogens responsible for this outbreak appear to be very contagious and many of our patients are displaying more than just mild clinical signs this year. A better name for the infections we are seeing is “Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease” because there is a long list of pathogens that can cause it. With the help of these cultures we have identified the contagious organisms in our current local outbreak.  All the dogs we tested have Mycoplasma along with either Coranvirus or Parainfluinza virus. Usually it takes 2 respiratory pathogens working together to cause the disease with the virus attacking first and allowing the Mycoplasma to be an opportunistic bacterial infection.  Vaccines cover many, but not all, of the pathogens that can cause a cough. Bordatella is the most well known bacteria that can cause coughing and one of the things we do have a vaccine for.   There is currently no available vaccine for Mycoplasma or Coronavirus. The Coronavirus is a relatively new respiratory virus that was probably transmitted to dogs from cattle and is now widespread in North America.

We started seeing infected dogs in early November and are still diagnosing cases weekly.  Part of this may be due to those dogs that continue to shed the Mycoplasma without showing any clinical signs.  If your dog has been diagnosed with Canine Cough make sure you follow all your veterinarians’ recommendations and be sure to call if your dog doesn’t appear to be responding to treatment.  A course of antibiotics along with prescription or over the counter cough medication is recommended.  Keep your dog isolated from other dogs for a full 2 weeks after the last signs of coughing/sneezing/nasal discharge. Wash any toys and bowls too as this infection, especially the Coronavirus, appears to be very contagious. (My own dog got it a few years ago after stealing the neighbor dog’s tennis ball. That’ll teach him!)    If you choose NOT to treat your dog with antibiotics or if you fail to give the full course of antibiotics, realize that your dog is likely infectious to other dogs for up to 2-3 months even if not displaying any clinical signs.

If your dog is very young or old or has a compromised immune system it is best to avoid areas where there are a lot of dogs.  If your dog becomes infected you may notice a sudden onset of a harsh dry cough.  Many people call us thinking their dogs are choking on something or even trying to vomit because their dog is coughing so hard.  Antibiotics, cough suppressants and anti-inflammatories can help your dog feel better faster.  If you have questions, call your vet! That’s what we’re here for!

Canine Cough? It's Still Out There! 1






Dr Paige Lorimer    Pet Kare Clinic     102 Anglers Drive      970-879-5273