Tracheobronchitis - A Preventable Danger To Your Older Dog

Tracheobronchitis, commonly known as kennel cough, can affect any dog.  However, the disease is particularly dangerous for older dogs whose immune systems are not as efficient as they once were.  But what's so dangerous about kennel cough in older dogs and how can it be prevented?

Kennel cough and older dogs

Kennel cough is a highly infectious form of respiratory disease affecting dogs.  Older animals tend to have a less effective autoimmune system than their younger counterparts, making them less able to fight off the secondary effects of the disease, such as chest infections and pneumonia.  This can lead to breathing difficulties, which in turn place undue strain on the dog's heart, sometimes causing death.

Kennel cough spreads rapidly from dog to dog via airborne water droplets.  If your pet has recently been in boarding kennels or spends time with other dogs, for example at a dog exercise area in your local park, he may be exposed to the disease.

What to look out for

If your dog shows any of the following symptoms, he may have kennel cough and you should seek veterinary advice immediately:

  • coughing repeatedly
  • retching
  • clear nasal discharge
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy

The symptoms of kennel cough usually emerge several days after exposure to groups of infected animals.


Your vet will carry out a thorough examination of your dog and may also take blood tests and chest x-rays to definitively diagnose the specific bacteria or virus that is causing kennel cough in your pet.

The treatment your dog will receive will depend on the degree of severity of the disease.  Older dogs often receive drug therapy to reduce coughing and inflammation of the lungs, and to make them more comfortable as they recover.  If pneumonia has set in, your dog will be given antibiotics and may require hospitalisation so that he can receive intravenous fluid therapy too.


The best way to protect your pet from kennel cough is through vaccination.  Dog vaccinations against kennel cough are particularly important for your elderly dog, even if he doesn't spend time in boarding kennels, as he could still be exposed to a dog with the disease while out exercising.

In conclusion

Kennel cough can be extremely dangerous in older dogs.  Be sure to ask your vet to vaccinate your pet against tracheobronchitis as part of his annual vaccination programme.  It's also worth noting that many boarding kennels and day care facilities will not take dogs that are not vaccinated against kennel cough.