Tracheobronchitis results from inflammation of the upper airways. It is typically a mild disease that will improve on its own given time. It can, however, progress to serious bronchopneumonia in puppies or to chronic bronchitis in ill, immunocompromised or older dogs. This disease can spread rapidly among dogs that are housed together or are in close proximity to each other, such as at dog parks, kennels or even the veterinary hospital. Stress and environmental changes appear to increase susceptibility. The broad term for this illness is “Kennel Cough”.
There are a number of viral, fungal or bacterial organisms that can cause tracheobronchitis. It is not uncommon to have infections with multiple organisms present.
The most common sign of tracheobronchitis is a hard dry cough. This cough may be followed by retching or gaging. Tracheobronchitis typically lasts for 10 – 20 days but the serenity of the couch typically decreases over the first 5 days. Some dogs may also exhibit a decrease in appetite, otherwise no other signs are usually noted. Should more severe signs develop such as fever, pus containing nasal discharge, depression, loss of appetite and a productive cough usually indicates a more serious infection, especially in puppies.
Diagnosis of tracheobronchitis is largely based in patient history and physical examination findings. Lab work is typically unremarkable with no abnormalities noted. Chest x-rays can be useful to rule out other causes of coughing and determine the severity of the disease.
In most cases, affected dogs do not need to be hospitalized because this is a self limiting illness, this is also preferred because the disease is highly contagious and it is difficult to control its spread through the hospital.
Medications to suppress coughing are sometimes prescribed to control the non productive cough. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to protect against opportunistic bacteria that may cause complications. In cases that are severe or do not respond well to treatment swabs of the nasal passages or a tracheal wash (where a patient is sedated, intubated and sterile saline is flushed into the trachea and bronchi and aspirated back to obtain a sample that container organisms) may be necessary to obtain a diagnosis. Dogs that are hospitalized have typically begun to show signs of pneumonia.
Yearly vaccines are used to help protect distemper, parainfluenza, canine adenovirus-2 and Bordetella bronchiseptica which are some of the most common organisms known to cause “kennel cough”