Kennel Cough

coughing dog
It’s fall. Besides the changing colors and cooler weather, Kennel Cough is another thing we expect to rear its ugly head every fall.

What is Kennel Cough?

  Kennel Cough is the common name for Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC). It is seen in dogs in group situations such as kenneling, grooming, dog shows, dog parks etc. The symptoms include hacking, coughing, sneezing and retching.

 So, what causes Kennel Cough then?

 CIRDC can be caused by the following bugs:
 Virus: Bocavirus, Canine Adenovirus Type 2, Canine Corona Virus, Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Herpes Virus, Canine Influenza Parainfluenza, Pneumovirus and Reovirus.
 Bacteria: Bordetella Brochiseptica, Streptococcus Equi, Mycoplasma spp. and secondary bacterial infections.


Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC)


A rose may be a rose by any other name but a cough…well a cough can be a lot of things.  Kennel Cough, Infectious Tracheobronchitis, Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease are all terms that are used interchangeably for CIRDC.  Do dogs with CIRDC always cough? Well… they frequently cough but not always. They may sneeze, have discharge from the eyes and nose, develop pneumonia or not show any signs at all. Some dogs may cough so hard that owners may confuse it with vomiting.  If you’re not sure watch this link. The causes of CIRDC are many and complicated and there are always new pathogens emerging.  Finally, CIRDC can be caused by more than one infectious agent.

Listed below are some of the pathogens that have been identified as major players in CIRDC.

 Currently identified viral agents include:

  • Parainfluenza virus  (vaccine available)
  • Adenovirus (vaccine available)
  • Canine respiratory corona virus
  • Canine herpes virus
  • Canine distemper virus (vaccine available)
  • Canine influenza virus (vaccine available)


Currently identified bacterial and other agents include:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (vaccine available)
  • Mycoplasma spp.
  • Streptococcus equi and zooepidemicus


Viruses and other infectious agents have been around for a long time and are highly successful organisms.  They spread easily and are frequently shed before any outward signs are evident. Once established in the respiratory tract secondary infection by other agents may also occur.  If that’s not enough, certain species can actually help each other infect your pet.  While vaccines are important in preventing CIRDC they unfortunately do not cover every pathogen that can cause disease.

When you think of CIRDC think of the colds your kids pick up at school and daycare. They can be spread by air and by physical contact. Interaction with other animals, stress, individual immune status, age, vaccine status and other factors can all play a role in development of CIRDC.

What’s the best way to manage CIRDC?  Most animals do best at home. If your dog begins coughing, call your veterinarian.  Coughing may be quite dramatic but in most cases it is self limiting. However, like a cold it can take a long time for symptoms to resolve on their own.   Each case is different and medications may be prescribed. Severe cases can cause pneumonia so any pet that appears to be in respiratory distress or is very lethargic should go to the clinic.  Once on the mend, please, don’t expose your dog to any other animals for a minimum of 7 days after all medication is finished and no symptoms are present.