Canine infectious tracheobronchitis or kennel cough as it is commonly known is not a serious condition which requires an immediate visit to the vet. Far from it, most dogs recover without any treatment. Kennel cough is characterized by the dog making choking sounds and is caused among others a virus called Bordetella bronchiseptica.
The bacteria or virus transfers to the respiratory tract when a dog breathes in air containing these agents and usually these get trapped in the mucous present in the respiratory tract. Some factors result in a weakening of this ability to trap the agents and leads to the dog hacking away. The factors include exposure to poorly ventilated and crowded where the air is stagnant and moist, exposure to dust and travel-induced stress. This constant hacking away results in the dog developing inflammations in the trachea and larynx.
Some dogs make a cough like sound that is called a reverse sneeze and should not be confused with kennel cough. The reverse sneeze indicates the presence of a post-nasal drip or an irritation to the throat and is normal in certain breeds. Kennel cough is always characterized by forceful persistent cough and occasionally some dogs also exhibit sneezing, eye discharge and a running nose. The dog registers a normal temperature and appetite and normal activity levels.
Even though most dogs recover without treatment, a visit to the vet would ensure a faster recovery. Vets usually manage the disease with a course of antibiotics and cough medications. The trip to the vet becomes all the more essential when you have more than one dog at home. This is because the disease is contagious and can spread to other dogs easily. If you choose not to visit the vet and wait for the dog to recover without medication, three weeks would be the limit. If the dog does not recover within this period, you must not delay any further as the infection may lead to pneumonia. Symptoms of rapid breathing, loss of appetite and listlessness along with the hacking cough may indicate something more serious than kennel cough and again calls for an immediate visit to the vet.
Other than medication, the dog should be kept in a well-humidified area. Using a harness instead of a collar is a good idea that would minimize the coughing, especially in dogs that tend to strain against the leash. Avoid exposure to cold temperatures, dust and cigarette smoke as this may exuberate the condition.