|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
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
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.