Acute contagious respiratory disease (kennel cough) is commonly described in dogs worldwide. The disease appears to be multifactorial and a number of viral and bacterial pathogens have been reported as potential aetiological agents, including canine parainfluenza virus, canine adenovirus and Bordetella bronchiseptica, as well as mycoplasmas, Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemicus, canine herpesvirus and reovirus-1,-2 and -3. Enhancement of pathogenicity by multiple infections can result in more severe clinical forms. In addition, acute respiratory diseases associated with infection by influenza A virus, and group I and II coronaviruses, have been described recently in dogs. Host species shifts and tropism changes are likely responsible for the onset of these new pathogens. The importance of the viral agents in the kennel cough complex is discussed.