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Doxycycline for Dog Kennel Cough

Doxycycline for Dogs

If your dog has contracted bordetella, your vet may prescribe doxycycline for dog kennel cough. Kennel cough is a highly contagious condition affecting dogs, and there may be times when vets feel that it is necessary to recommend a course of antibiotics. Doxycycline is an antibiotic that is commonly prescribed for kennel cough in dogs, and that can help affected dogs recover from the disease without serious complications. It is important that you are aware of how doxycycline works, its side effects and other important considerations so you can aid your dog in a fast recovery.

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Doxycycline for Dogs 

Doxycycline hydrocloride is a tetracycline antibiotic that is effective against several types of bacterial infections. In dogs, this antibiotic is prescribed as the first line antibiotic for several tick-borne diseases such as erlichia, Lyme disease and Rocky mountain spotted fever. Doxycycline may also be used to treat salmon poisoning, brucellosis, mycobacterial skin infections, respiratory infections, gum diseases and kidney infections.

Doxycycline works by interfering with the bacteria's ability to reproduce. With the bacteria's growth cycle halted, the overload is reduced and the body is better able to fight off the infection.

As with any drugs and supplements, it's always important to consult with the vet before administering a drug like doxycycline. There are several side effects, drug interactions and precautions to be aware of before administering doxycycline for dog kennel cough.

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Quick fact: Another drug that is also prescribed for kennel cough is amoxicillin/clavulanate, better known as Clavamox.

Doxycycline for Dog Kennel Cough 

dog coughing after the bordetella vaccine

Not all dogs with kennel cough will require a course of antibiotics. Kennel cough, also known as bordetella or canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is an upper respiratory infection that can be compared to a chest cold in humans. Kennel cough typically causes frequent coughing fits that sound like a honking duck, reverse sneezing and nasal discharge, but it is usually a self-limiting condition that doesn't require antibiotics.

Generally, for dogs kept in a home showing only signs of mild illness, antibiotic treatment may not be necessary. However, for dogs kept in a more "challenging environment" such as a shelter or boarding kennel, antibiotic treatment is often indicated, and the good drugs to use for bordetella are doxycycline and potentiated sulfas, explains veterinarian Dr. Kate Hurley.

In some cases kennel cough may progress and lead to more serious, secondary problems. Very young puppies with weaker immune systems (generally under 4 months of age) are particularly prone to severe respiratory infections which can progress to pneumonia. At risk for complications may also be very old dogs or dogs with a suppressed immune system. And in a shelter environment or boarding kennel, the disease may spread quickly if no measures are quickly taken to control the spread and keep affected subjects quarantined.

Did you know? Kennel cough can be caused by an assortment of viral and bacterial pathogens Bacterial pathogens include Bordetella bronchiseptica, mycoplasma spp, while viral pathogens include parainfluenza, scanine adenovirus 2., canine herpesvirus and canine respiratory coronavirus.

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The Purpose of Doxycycline

Giving a dog doxycycline for kennel cough is not really meant to treat kennel cough per se', considering that it is difficult to treat dog kennel cough with antibiotics.

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Most dogs with a good immune system will defeat the kennel cough on their own, without the need for antibiotics. If we think about, there's not much that can be done to defeat a viral infection. The antibiotic is mostly given for a possible bacterial component. The real purpose of therefore giving antibiotics to a dog with kennel cough is to decrease the chances of secondary infection, explains veterinarian Dr. BJ Hughes.

So if you're wondering why your dog was put on doxycycline, ultimately the purpose of doxycycline for dog kennel cough is to be given as a prophylactic antibiotic to a dog showing symptoms. Doxycycline is therefore meant to prevent the colonization of bacteria in the dog's lower respiratory tract.

However, the value of prophylactic antibiotics remains questionable, considering that bordetella thrives in poorly vascularized areas of the dog's respiratory tree; and that effective bacterial levels are difficult to reach unless nebulization is offered to affected dogs, yet this option remains quite impractical considering the minor significance of the infection, explains veterinarian Dr. Michael Salkin.

Along with doxycycline, vets may also prescribe a cough suppressant (such as cough tabs, hydrocodone syrup or tablets, codeine or butorphanol ) so to allow the dog to get more comfortable and get some sleep. However, these are usually reserved for severe cough only, because if the cough is suppressed, the dog won't be able clear the airway of secretions which is important.

Kennel cough is expected to cause a dog symptoms for 10 to 14 days, but in some cases, the cough may last for about 3 to 4 weeks. Consult with your vet to determine whether your dog should be or not be on doxycycline as individual factors may vary.

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"I don't treat kennel cough with antibiotics at all as it is usually more of a viral component, and less bacterial. I also find that although they have a bad cough, they are pretty well normal in every other way, and it runs its course in 7-10 days with no treatment at all."~Dr. Sean Egan, veterinarian at Egan Fife Animal Hospital

Things to be Aware of 

If your vet prescribes doxycycline for dog kennel cough, it's important to follow important directions. It should be used with caution in dogs with liver or kidney disease and it should be avoided in pregnant or lactating dogs considering that this drug crosses the placenta and is absorbed in milk. It should also be avoided in young puppies considering that doxycycline can affect bone and tooth development.

Side effects of doxycyline in dogs include digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Expired doxycycline should be avoided at all costs as it may cause kidney problems.

This drug should not be give in combination with other medications without consent of a vet. Drugs that should not be used along with doxycycline or that should be reported to your vet for correct usage include antacids, multivitamins with calcium, zinc, magnesium and iron, penicillin, barbiturates, insulin and digoxin.

As seen, doxycycline for kennel cough is a drug that your vet may or may not decide to give to your dog based on several individual factors such as your dog's age, overall health and severity of the symptoms. If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, consult with your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

"Most of the time in milder cases this disease will resolve on its on over 5-7 days similar to a common cold in people though some dogs that have more moderate to severe coughing will need an antibiotic such as Doxycycline."~Dr. Matt, veterinarian

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  • DVM360: Canine infectious respiratory disease complex: management and prevention in canine populations (Proceedings)
  • DVM360: Bordetella bronchiseptca affects at least 10 states

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