Dog’s Eye View: Current ‘kennel cough’ outbreak best treated with antibiotics

Dr. Paige Lorimer, DVM, CVA For Steamboat Today

We have identified the contagious organisms in our current “kennel cough” outbreak. All dogs we have tested at Pet Kare Clinic have Mycoplasma along with either Coranvirus or Parainfluinza virus.

Usually it takes two respiratory pathogens working together to cause the disease with the virus attacking first and allowing the Mycoplasma to be an opportunistic bacterial infection.

Vaccines cover many but not all of the pathogens that can cause a cough. There is currently no available vaccine for Mycoplasma or Coronavirus.

Kennel cough is not caused solely by Bordatella and we see it in other places besides kennels.  A better name for the infections we are seeing is “Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease.” These diseases spread much like colds do in people, so we see it in areas where dogs go to be social and interact more frequently.

Right now we are seeing it in dogs from neighborhoods all over town and dogs that frequent the dog park.  If your dog is very young or old or has a compromised immune system, it is best to avoid areas where there are a lot of dogs.

If your dog is infected you may notice a sudden onset of a harsh dry cough. Many people call us thinking their dogs are choking on something or even trying to vomit because their dog is coughing so hard.



We recommend treating all symptomatic dogs with a course of antibiotics. The secondary bacterial infections are a concern. Minocycline Doxycline and Tetracycline are antibiotics effective against both Bordatella and Mycoplasma. They also have some anti-inflammatory effects that may be helpful. Treatment with these antibiotics in particular will also reduce shedding to other dogs and hopefully help to prevent community spread.

We recommend 2-week quarantine from the end of clinical signs (coughing) for dogs treated with antibiotics. Without antibiotic treatment dogs will be more susceptible to other bacterial infections and can carry and shed Mycoplasma for up to 2-3 months. Without antibiotic treatment these dogs should be kept away from other dogs for 2-3 months or they could still be spreading Mycoplasma to other dogs. They may be infecting other dogs even though they are not coughing or showing any clinical signs.

We may prescribe cough suppressants if the coughing is disrupting sleep or bothersome with activity. We can prescribe stronger prescription cough medication from PKC or an over the counter cough suppressant like Robitussin can also be used. (Dextromethorphan hydrobromide is a semi-synthetic opium derivative which lacks opium’s narcotic properties but decreases coughing. Dextromethorphan: 1-2 mg/kg PO q6-8h). Please double check to make sure that the OTC product contains only Dextromethorphan and call us if you have any questions about dosing.

We may prescribe Rimadyl for 3-5 days for dogs that are showing more significant clinical signs. It will reduce the associated inflammation that might be causing some of the clinical signs. It is very important to make sure your dog is drinking fluids if on Rimadyl. You can increase fluid intake by adding water/chicken broth to meals and do not give Rimadyl if your dog is not drinking normally.

Because we have cultured numerous dogs in our community and know exactly what we are treating we do recommend treating this particular outbreak with antibiotics and do not recommend letting it “run it’s course.”

For more information, visit and search for “kennel cough” in our Medical Information Library.

Written by Dr. Paige Lorimer, DVM, CVA, a veterinarian at Pet Kare Clinic in Steamboat Springs. Submitted by Laura Tyler of Total Teamwork Training LLC.


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