|Known as trachea bronchitis, canine infectious trachea bronchitis, Bordeteilosis, or Bordetella. It is
highly contagious in dogs. The disease is found worldwide and will infect a very high percentage of dogs
in their lifetime.
Infectious Agents Involved
There are many different agents that can cause trachea bronchitis. The most common are Parainfluenza
virus, Bordetella bronchi septics, and Myca plasma. Canine Adenovirus type 2, reovirus, and canine
herpes virus are thought to possibly contribute to the disease as well. Although any one of these
organisms can cause symptoms of the disease, the majority of cases are the result of more than one
The most common viral agent is Para influenza virus. This common virus will cause mild symptoms
lasting less than 6 days unless there is involvement of other bacteria, as is usually the case. Most 5-way
vaccines and “Kennel Cough” vaccines offer some protection against this virus.
Bordetella bronchi septics is the most common bacteria isolated from dogs with trachea bronchitis.
Clinical signs of infections occur 2-14 days after exposure, and if uncomplicated with other agents,
symptoms will last around 10 days. However, after the infection has been resolved, the affected animal
will continue to shed the bacteria for 6-14 weeks and can spread the disease to other susceptible
animals during that time. Bordetella is one of the agents protected against through the use of intranasal
“Kennel Cough” vaccines. Para influenza and Bordetella most commonly appear together in infectious
trachea bronchitis, creating a disease that normally lasts from 14-20 days.
The most common symptom is a dry hacking cough sometimes followed by retching. Many owners
describe the cough as having a “honking sound”. A watery nasal discharge may also be present. With
mild cases, dogs continue to eat, be alert and be active. Many times, there is a recent history of boarding
or coming in contact with other dogs. In more severe cases, the symptoms may progress and include
lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, pneumonia, and in very severe cases, even death. The majority of
severe cases occur in young unvaccinated puppies or animals with a compromised immune system.
Diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms and a history of recent exposure to other dogs. Bacteria
cultures, viral isolation, and blood work can be performed to verify individual agents of the disease, but
due to the characteristic nature of the symptoms, these tests are not usually needed or performed.
There are two treatment options depending on the severity of the disease. In most common mild cases,
antibiotics may or may not be used. Treating the mild case does not shorten the length in which the
animal will be a potential spreader of the disease. In addition, bronchi dilators like aminophylline or
cough suppressants may also be used in treatment of mild cases.
In more sever e cases where the animal is not eating, running a fever, or showing signs of pneumonia,
antibiotics are often used. The most common ones are doxycycline or trimethoprim-sulfa. However,
many other choices are also available. Steroids or cough suppressants are not usually recommended
because of the risk of immunosuppression with steroids and the need to continue to clear extra fluid or
mucous in pneumonia patients. Bronchodilators and even aerosol therapy can be used. In moderate or
even severe cases, veterinary care should be instituted, as the resultant pneumonia could easily become
life threatening if not treated properly and promptly.Because pressure on the throat and trachea can
make coughing worse, it is recommended that dogs with a cough should wear a head collar or harness
instead of a regular neck collar.
Vaccination and prevention
The best prevention is to not expose your dog to other dogs, especially young puppies. If this cannot be
avoided, then proper vaccination is the next best option. Chances are that if your dog is regularly
vaccinated with a standard 5-way or 7-way vaccine, they are already being protected against several of
the agents causing tracheobronchitis, mainly Parainfluenza and adenovirus. However, these vaccines
alone rarely provide protection against contracting the disease, although they will help reduce the
severity of the disease if the animal does become infected.
There is an injectable Bordatella vaccine, and one that is given intranasally (squirted into the nostrils).
Neither vaccine will totally prevent infection with Bordatella. For the injectable vaccine, 2 doses must be
given 3-4 weeks apart, and protection doesn’t occur until 1-2 weeks after the second injection.
More commonly, for best protection, an intranasal vaccine containing both Parainfluenza and Bordatella
is used. Intranasal vaccines create localized immunity that greatly reduces the incidence of clinical
signs of illness. The vaccine may be used in puppies as young as 3 weeks of age, only one dose is
necessary to provide protection, and protection occurs as early as 3-4 days following vaccination. There
are several precautions and warnings that need to be observed pertaining to the vaccine. Some dogs will
develop mild signs similar to tracheobronchitis when given this vaccine. Very often, the symptoms will
last for several days and the dog will recover without treatment. Dogs that are vaccinated can also shed
the virus and cause other dogs to become mildly infected and show mild signs. This shedding usually
lasts less than 72 hours of coming into contact with other susceptible dogs. Do not give the vaccine the
day before a dog show, boarding, etc. Try to give at least four days before contact with other dogs and
preferably 7 days. This way, you will protect your dog from becoming infected by other dogs, and protect
those dogs from becoming infected by yours.
In kennels where tracheobronchitis is a problem, strict hygiene with thorough cleaning and disinfection
of cages and food and water containers is essential. In addition, kennels that are indoors should have
good ventilation with an air turnover rate of at least 12 times an hour. Agents causing tracheobronchitis
can be transmitted on hands and clothing, as well as through the air, so infected animals must be
isolated and handlers should wear gloves and use proper hand washing to help prevent spread.
Vaccination of all animals, especially puppies is indicated in problem kennels. After initial vaccination as
puppies, a yearly booster is commended. However, some dogs that are at very high risk are vaccinated
every six months.
Human health risk
Until recently, infection tracheobronchitis was considered to not be a human health risk. Recently
however, research indicates that Bordetella bronchiseptica may cause disease in some human,
primarily those with compromised immune systems. In normal, healthy adults, there does not appear to
be a risk, but young children and immunocompromised individuals should take precautions against
coming into contact with animals that have symptoms of tracheobronchitis.