Dogs can cough because of heart disease, cancers, obstructions, anatomical abnormalities, allergies or parasites. But in London perhaps the most common cause of coughing is transmissible infection, so called 'kennel cough'. Infectious canine cough has increased in the last five years. Referral centres now routinely require preventative inoculation before they see new dogs. That's one of the reasons we now recommend routine inoculation against the infectious forms of 'canine cough'.
Many small dogs are born with soft windpipes that are prone to collapse. They endure spasms of coughing especially when excited. Some elderly dogs, especially Labrador retrievers, lose the sensitivity in their voiceboxes as they grow old. Phlegm gets into the larynx and they too cough. Flat faced breeds such as Pugs retch and cough because of their anatomy. All of these problems are not uncommon and can only be reduced through better breeding. In a differential diagnosis they are all "upper airway disorders".

We often see dogs coughing because of "lower airway disorders", problems in the lungs themselves. Older Westies in particular are prone to chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or COPD. Irritants and allergens can lead to chronic bronchitis, an inflammation of the main airways. Lungworm and migrating roundworm larvae make dogs cough. So do inhaled foreign bodies, pneumonia and lung cancers. 

Infectious canine cough, usually called 'kennel cough' has become relatively common. The usual cause is a bacteria, Bordetella bronchiseptica and because it is a bacteria the infection is treatable with antibiotics. In most instances infection is more of a nuisance than a serious illness, although we recently treated a young German shepherd that developed secondary pneumonia so severe he needed hospitalisation at the Royal Veterinary College for eight days.

We diagnose infectious canine cough year round and have always recommended that dogs walked by dog walkers, going to training or to boarding be given a preventative vaccination, a squirt up the nose with vaccine that protects for a year against the most common causes of 'kennel cough'.

Because London dogs are so sociable with other dogs - each day in the park is like visiting a kennel - following the lead of such institutions as the Royal Veterinary College and Dick White Referrals, we now recommend inoculation of all dogs with Kennel Cough vaccine. In pups this is given as a single squirt up the nose at the time of their final puppy inoculation at 12 weeks of age. In adult dogs the vaccine can be given at the time of their annual health examination. The additional cost of the vaccine is £12.00. 

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