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Kennel Cough: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Kennel Cough: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


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Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

What Is Kennel Cough?

When Sasha, a three-year-old golden retriever, started coughing, her owner thought she had something stuck in her throat. She was coughing and then gagging as if her throat was irritated by something. When the cough did not resolve within 24 hours, he took Sasha to the vet concerned there must be something blocking her airway.

"My dog seems like he has something stuck in his throat" is something vets often hear from owners, and more often than not it means the dog has kennel cough.

Medically known as bordetella or infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory infection common in dogs that are gathered together in kennels (hence the name kennel cough) or at dog parks, dog shows, or just about anywhere where airborne viruses can spread from one dog to another.

Symptoms

Dogs affected by kennel cough will often develop symptoms about three to seven days after exposure. The most common symptoms are:

  • Dry hacking cough
  • "Something stuck in throat" behavior
  • Coughing after exercise
  • Gagging
  • Nasal discharge
  • Mucus expelled from mouth following cough
  • Lethargy (in severe cases)
  • Loss of appetite (in severe cases)
  • Fever (in severe cases)
  • Pneumonia (in very severe cases)
  • Death (in very rare instances)

In Sasha's case, her symptoms appeared a few days after having socialized with other dogs at a dog park. She had not been vaccinated that year against bordetella, so that made her particularly susceptible to the infection. Her health remained normal in some ways: her appetite remained, she was still playful, and her rectal temperature was 100.9o, which is considered normal.

Treatment

Kennel cough often resolves itself within two to three weeks. Antibiotics and sometimes cough suppressants are often prescribed to prevent complications and speed up recovery. In Sasha's case, a 14-day course was prescribed. She recovered pretty fast, and her cough gradually went away one week following treatment.

Minor cases are often treated at home by clearing up the airway with a non-medicated humidifier or by having the dog breathe in a bathroom full of hot water steam.

Administering Robitussin DM has proved helpful in minor cases, according to veterinarian Dawn Ruben. Nevertheless, as with any medication, it is highly advised to consult a vet first and seek information about side effects, correct dosage, and interactions with other medications.

Bordetella vaccines are very good at preventing this annoying respiratory infection. The vaccine may be administered intranasally or by traditional inoculation. The intranasal form appears to create immunity faster than the inoculation version.

Although kennel cough is a pretty common respiratory disease, any case of coughing needs to be monitored and investigated, as a cough can suggest other more serious problems, even potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, valley fever, or heartworms.

What Kennel Cough Sounds Like

Questions & Answers

Question: My dog sounds as if he has kennel cough, but he has not been around any other dog; he is also very lethargic, even falling asleep while he is standing up! He has not wanted to eat for the last 2 days but the cough did not start until today. Could he have kennel cough without being exposed to it? I did recently clean out the spare bedroom, I read somewhere it can also be caused from dust.

Answer: Kennel cough in dogs can be caused by a wide variety of bacterial or viral agents. This happens through contagion, just as us humans get the cold from being around other humans with the cold. Dust cannot cause it, but in a dog with kennel cough dust/smoke or any other irritants may exacerbate it. Sometimes, dogs can get kennel cough without direct exposure e.g.from being in contact with people who have recently been in contact with a dog with kennel cough, or sniffing/licking an area where foxes, coyotes, have licked/coughed on. Your dog may have another condition considering the rather serious signs you are seeing (lethargic, not eating) which are not too common in kennel cough. Hopefully, it has not evolved into secondary pneumonia which can be seen in very young or very old dogs, or those with a compromised immune system.

© 2008 Adrienne Farricelli

Khem singh, Bulandshahr up,india on July 30, 2018:

My one year old jsd suffering with cold & cold, sneezing,

Karl Prust on July 29, 2018:

I wonder if kennel cough is caused by the stress of being abandoned by the owner for weeks at a time!!

kyle on March 07, 2018:

my dog is 11 weeks old he is a australian bluehealer and he had a bad cough has benn puking all over the place what should i do

Tina on September 30, 2017:

My Chihuahua (2 lbs) was outside unattended today. He has been gagging and acting like something is stuck in his throat. I tried looking and couldn't see anything, what should I do?

Dollie keys on May 19, 2017:

I have a boxer she is 12 weeks old she has a cough it started on 5/18/17 I called the vet and they gave me someDoxycycline and I have to give her one pill every 12 Hours .i hope that this will help her ,I so sad ..

littlebuku on February 22, 2017:

how long does kennel cough last?

Lyn Bromley on January 09, 2017:

My dog is a 6year Pom, he has started coughing like something hung in his throat, and sneezing. He does not seem to be effected by it when he is sleeping? Is this something the vet should look at?

[email protected]

BrendensMom on March 07, 2016:

This was so helpful!! My dog is having these exact symptoms thanks so much I thought he was dying!! ssshhhhhh I feel better .

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 27, 2014:

Is your other dog vaccinated for bordetella?

donna on November 27, 2014:

We just rescued our 4 month old lab from the pound a week ago as a companion to our 6 month old lab. They have been connected at the hip since day 1. 3 days ago I started noticing a hacking cough resulting in a flemy mucousfrom my kennel puppy. I thought she had something stuck in her throat now after doing some research I believe it is the kennel cough. What I worry about is that since the two of them have been together so much that my other dog will contract the cough or if there is any preventive measures other then separating them. Also is the cough contagious to cats?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 03, 2014:

Could be a variety of things, this hub shows some causes of coughing up white phlegm, please see your vet for an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment./dogs/Why-is-my-Dog-Coughing...

Tiffany on June 03, 2014:

My dog is five and has developed a cough like he's choking and a white phlegm, is this kennel vough?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 17, 2014:

It could be she eats them very fast causing her to choke, but if she keeps coughing she should be checked out for other causes of coughing. Don't let it become a habit though as cat food has different protein levels than dog food and can cause nutritional imbalances.

[email protected] on February 17, 2014:

Can cat food cause dogs to cough? My female boxer loves to sneak into the cats dry food. She hasn't been exposed to any new dogs but shes coughing like she has a hairball. Was wondering if a possible hairball remendy was in the cats food causing the cough?

sugarbear on March 16, 2013:

Hi my name is Tammy & my pom is vomiting & coughing and I thought she was crying but I believe she ie wheezing. This is the 3rd day.pray for my sweet sugarbear. I love her so much.Iam getting her meds 1st thing in the morning. LOU, KY.40272 VALLEY STATION

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 28, 2012:

Keeping her indoors is the best bet as you can better keep an eye on her for any worrisome symptoms and prevent the spread of the disease which can be transmitted to other dogs. Your dog may also benefit from a humid environment , home humidifier or vaporizer may be helpful to sooth a dry cough. Best wishes!

germangurl74 on July 28, 2012:

Our lil emma is 4 mos old, is currently on her second round of antibiotic for an uti, just had her last set of shots last week and has kennel cough since yesterday. I have nor been to the vet yet, but she has all the signs of it. We had planned to go on vacation next week, but think we need to cancel now because of emma being sick. She would have to stay outside in her kennel. What do you recommend? Would she be ok outside? I thought if I had a cold I wouldn't wanna be camping outside.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 02, 2012:

Talk to the vet that prescribed the antibiotics. Your vet knows your pet's history best so perhaps he can prescribe another medication to calm the coughing. Best wishes.

Maria on July 02, 2012:

Hi my puppy is 11 weeks and developed a cough 6 days ago which began dry and he was gagging like he had something in his throat. Now the cough is chesty and bubbly. Can this be kennel cough? We bought him from a breeder and he was mixed with other puppies. He has been on antibiotics for 3 days now but still has it. I am really worried what do u suggest?

Stephanie P. on June 02, 2012:

Thank you! We were worried about our new puppy and weren't sure if this was worth an emergency trip. Your article and attached video are exactly what is happening. I feel comfortable waiting until Monday now. Thanks so much!

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 27, 2012:

It is hard to say. Has she been around other dogs lately? A cough upon exertion is not normal, so a vet visit is recommended. If this happens only after biting something it could be particles swallowed make her cough.

Kim on April 27, 2012:

Hi,

My Corgi will cough when we play with him. Usually he'll bite our comforter on the bed or his soft toysthen suddenly he'll cough afew times then stop. So is that Kennel cough? If so, what can i do to help? Visit to the vet?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 14, 2012:

Kennel cough tends to last a few weeks and comes from exposure to other dogs just as colds are spread from human to human. From your description the cough sounds seasonal. Never hurts to ask the opinion of another vet.

Amanda on April 13, 2012:

I have a 3 year old chihuahua, who suffers from a cough during the spring months, we were told that it was seasonal allergies, but after hearing the video it sounds the same, she has never been in a keenal and is not around other dogs. She is an inside dog, do you think it could be "kennel cough"?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 11, 2012:

Could be the dog had a heart condition (heart problems also cause coughing) or had heartworms. Could be also had a pulmonary infection. The best way to know would be with a necropsy, sorry to hear that.

Archie on April 11, 2012:

DOG is gone two weeks after a really bad cough and seeming recovery.

What are the possible reasons??

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 15, 2012:

I don't think there is much you can do to prevent infection at this point especially since you claim they were together for 3 days. Your vet is right; the intranasal form lasts 6 months, whereas the injection form typically lasts 8-9 months up to a year. The incubation time for bordetella is between 5-14 days before a cough is seen.

kmom08 on February 14, 2012:

We rescued a dog from the shelter 2 days before he was scheduled for euthanization (due to overpopulation). He is very sweet and loving, but after we got him home what we thought was just him clearing his airway as a cause of him being half pug turned out to be kennel cough. He is on an antibiotic and cough medication both prescribed by the vet. They also administered a nasal bordatella to my other dog who was given his yearly bordatella shot back in June to hopefully help boost it in his system. I was always told bordatella was a once a year shot, but the vet I went to yesterday said no it needs to be given every 6 months. So now I'm very worried my dog is going to catch this from our newly adopted dog. I'm keeping them separated as best as possible, but they had full contact with eachother for 3 full days. How long before my dog could show signs if he in fact caught the virus from our new dog? Just hoping for a quick recovery, and also when I asked the vet if I should be disinfecting my home they said there really is no need because it's airborn. Any suggestions, or cleaning in my home I should be doing?

fudge on January 13, 2012:

my 15 week old lad puppy has just started with what i think is kennel cough - i tried sticking my fingers down her throat thinking she was choking - all night long she has been gagging poor thing - she was at vets last night - they said not - but she never coughed once while we were there - watching videos posted im sure it is - so back to the vets again today - keeping her warm and rested today - its really worrying

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 05, 2011:

Nicky, the fact you still have antibiotics from other dogs suffering from kennel cough, makes me think that you have a tendency to not give the medications as prescribed. Antibiotics should be given as directed by a vet, this means that very likely the whole bottle should be finished. Your pug therefore may need a full course of antibiotics which may mean given from 10 days to 2 weeks, depending on the type of antibiotic used and your dog's condition. When kennel cough is not treated as needed, it could lead to pneumonia. I recommend a vet visit also because a pug's facial features makes it harder for them to breath when they are affected by respiratory disorders, best wishes!

nicky on December 05, 2011:

Sorry I meant is that normal? Not hotmail.

nicky on December 05, 2011:

I have a 6 month pug and he has at least we assume has kennel cough. We had previous dogs with kennel cough so antibiotics are still available for us but it's been going on for a week but for has been having a hard time breathing. Sometimes it appears as if hes suffocating. Is that hotmail because my other pugs did not have that. We tried giving him honey and put on a humidifier and it got slightly better but the suffocating sound is worse. Help!

Jan on October 09, 2011:

Would a dog cough all the time?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 03, 2011:

It is hard to say, it's like asking how long a person with a cold should stay away from others, it will vary. Generally, you would think a couple of weeks would suffix, but it is hard to say for sure.

Eden on September 27, 2011:

Hey, all the information above is great. however I have a 2month old Bull Arab that has developed kennel cough as we got him from the pound.. he has been on medication for 3 days and seems to be doing very well. but i also have a 4 year old Mastiff and was wondering how long i need to keep them apart. Its very difficult to keep them apart. My mastiff has been vaccinated but im told there are different strains and cannot be totally sure hes vaccinated for the right one. So any info would be great THANK YOU

Debbie on September 09, 2011:

Hiya

Just picked up my 6yr old lab from kennels, they told me he had developed kennel cough but he was at the end of it, as u would expect he is doing the dry cough a bit, as he's at the end stages of it as the people at the kennels said, do I need to do anything? Warm water instead of cold etc? He was at kennels for 8 days so how much longer would be expected till he recovers?

Any comments would be gratefully received

Thanx

Sam on September 02, 2011:

Thank you thank you thank you. I just rescued my puppy from the pound and he had been coughing and sneezing. I started to get worried that it was something worse but all of the comments calmed me down. He has been on meds for a few days now and hopefull will be getting better soon.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 11, 2011:

Also consider that yes, the virus mutates just as the human flu..

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 07, 2011:

no vaccine is actually 100 percent effective. also keep into consideration the type of vaccination given: if it was the injectable form of bordetella usually it takes 7 to 10 days to become effective, if it was the intranasal version it generally takes only 3 days...

Some vets also recommend giving the bordetella vaccine every 6 months..

gusnme on March 07, 2011:

my dog is seven months old we have given him all required and suggested shots and vaccinations including one for bordetella and yet he still got the virus. are their multiple strains of the virus like the common cold? I am trying to figure out why the "guaranteed" shots i was given by my vet did not prevent this. and can this virus be passed to humans?

Nancy G on October 23, 2010:

This was great site. Info was very informational. And helped my dog stop caughing.

Thank you so much.

Happy Pet Owners on August 17, 2010:

We did much search on-line thinking our curious beagle was choking. But it went on sporatically for 2 days.

The video you have on this link confirmed kennel cough - thank you for the info & specifically the video!

wendy landaverde on September 10, 2009:

thanks forposting this information is very heplful to have somekind of idea of what your dog has.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 13, 2009:

It is somewhat similar to the human cold perhaps resembling in some ways whooping cough. Some dogs may get a fever as well so if left outside they may shiver and feel lethargic. Dogs with kennel cough benefit from drinking warm broth to open the airways. However, just to be on the safe side, I would stay away from garlic because it has a history of causing Heinz disease (a form o anemia) in dogs and cats.

Ani on June 13, 2009:

If a dog has kennel cough will they get worse if you leave them outside and it is cold? Is it like a human flu should they be kept warm and fed garlic and etc?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 13, 2009:

It is indeed quite difficult to keep dogs separated, especially since germs are airborne, they should all go through it (but some may not get it depending on how strong their immune system is) and hopefully the virus will have runned its course. However, if they still keep on getting in contact with other dogs affected by it they may get it continuosly if not vaccinated.

1988pdm on April 10, 2009:

Tks v much. It was v imp to me that you followed up with:

"My dog started dry and then progressed into mucous at the ending stage. It was very annoying to deal with and this is why I always vaccinate against bordetella."

I now know, we're near the end and that we'll now vaccinate.

One complication. It's too impractical to separate the 2 infected dogs at home. Like a family cold, once it's gone through the house, will all be free from it? Or is KC so contageous, it'll just keep going around and around, from 1 dog to the other?

Kind regards,

Peter

Sydney, Aust.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 21, 2008:

Thank you for posting!

Yes, we used the same protocol when having dogs with suspected KC. Very, very contagious! I have seen some cough up mucous and other with a drier version.

My dog started dry and then progressed into mucous at the ending stage. It was very annoying to deal with and this is why I always vaccinate against bordetella.

Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on August 21, 2008:

Great advice, and it is also worth mentioning that Kennel Cough dogs will cough up small amounts of white mucous onto the floor. It is also really important to keep kennel cough dogs away from other dogs until they are well again. When I worked at a Vets we used to book any dog that sounded like a "suspected" kennel cough case as the last appointment of the day. We would then have to disinfect the whole clinic thoroughly afterwards, even though Kennel Cough is actually airborne, but the vet felt it was better to be on the safe side anyway.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 20, 2008:

Ohhhh, thanks so much! I am always happy when my hubs are helpful, take care and a kissy to your pup! If you ever need help with anything you can request a hub from me, I will be glad to write one for you,

kind regards

euhlala from Vancouver, BC on August 20, 2008:

I can't believe this just came over to me! My first little dog ever and guess what we just took him to the vet for a little over a week ago? I know why I'm a fan of this hubber - everything you've sent my way is so useful - especially since I'm new to this whole puppy/dog world. I can't say thank you enough!

Great article - keep it up!


How Long Does Kennel Cough Last? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

One day, your dog starts emitting a loud, hacking cough that sounds pretty serious. It starts to sound almost like a goose honk. Then, your pup starts to show other signs of illness, like sneezing and eye discharge.

What's going on with your pet? Is it something serious?

While the symptoms described above could be caused by a variety of health issues, a persistent cough is most often a sign of kennel cough, otherwise known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis or just infectious tracheobronchitis. It's a relatively common ailment for our canine friends.

Although it doesn't sound or look pleasant when your dog comes down with a case of kennel cough, you might be surprised to learn that it's not usually a serious issue. Most of the time, a case of kennel cough resolves entirely on its own. Typically, the problem is only life-threatening for older dogs, young puppies, or dogs with compromised immune systems. Think of kennel cough like a dog's version of the human cold.

So, how long does kennel cough last? How is it contracted and transmitted, and what can dog parents do about it? Read on to find out more about this illness in dogs.

Causes of Kennel Cough

There are several things that might cause kennel cough. Namely, they are infectious agents (bacteria or viruses) that a dog inhales into the windpipe and respiratory tract.

Bordetella

The Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria is the most common cause of kennel cough. In fact, kennel cough is sometimes referred to simply as "Bordetella."

It's possible for the Bordetella bacteria to be the sole cause of this illness. If this is the case, symptoms will last about 10 days or so. Most often, though, Bordetella is not the sole cause.

Viruses

In the majority of cases, a combination of the Bordetella bacteria and an infectious virus is what leads to kennel cough. Those viruses include the parainfluenza virus, canine distemper, canine adenovirus, canine herpes, and canine reovirus.

The viral agent weakens your dog's immune system, making them more susceptible to the Bordetella bacteria, and attacks cells in the respiratory system at the same time. This can weaken the mucus coating that lines your pup's respiratory tract, putting the larynx (voice box) and trachea (the windpipe) at risk for inflammation.

Aggravating Factors

Avoiding these factors might not always be possible, but doing your best to keep your dog away from them will make kennel cough less likely.

Transmission of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is transmitted between dogs in three main ways: Through the air, through contact with contaminated objects, and through direct contact with other infected dogs.

The Air

Bordetella bacteria and the viruses that often accompany it are easily spread through the air, which is why kennel cough is so contagious. When an infected dog coughs, sneezes, or barks, thousands of contaminants are spread into the air around them. Those contaminants can travel through the air and stay alive for weeks until they're ingested by another unwitting host.

Contaminated Objects

Bordetella bacteria can survive on surfaces for up to two full days, so it's easily spread between dogs via contaminated objects. An infected dog might pick up a toy, or drink from a water dish, that a healthy dog uses afterward. That healthy dog is then likely to contract the bacteria and/or virus.

Dog-to-Dog Contact

Of course, kennel cough can easily be spread among dogs in close contact with each other. In fact, that's where the illness gets its name: It's easily spread when large numbers of dogs are housed in close quarters together, like in a boarding kennel.

Kennels aren't the only places that dogs hang out, though. Vet clinics, dog parks, grooming facilities, doggy daycare, and even pet stores present an opportunity for the illness to be spread.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

How to Treat Kennel Cough

If your dog is exhibiting the above symptoms and you suspect he or she might have kennel cough, what do you do?

Since it's so contagious, the first step is to isolate your dog from other pets in the house. Next, call your veterinarian to find out how to proceed.

Many cases will not require treatment at all. As strange as it sounds, the usual course of action is to simply let your dog's immune system fight off the problem itself. In these cases, kennel cough will resolve on its own in about three weeks' time, although it could take longer in older dogs or dogs with compromised immune systems or other medical issues.

Medications may be given to your dog to help minimize symptoms and increase recovery times. These include antibiotics to target the Bordetella bacteria, as well as cough suppressants to help make your pooch more comfortable. Here are a few more recommendations for helping your dog to feel more comfortable while they're recovering:

  • Keep stress to a minimum. A dog that's constantly anxious will not recover from kennel cough as quickly as they would otherwise.
  • Try a humidifier. Setting up a humidifier device in the area where your dog stays can help to soothe your dog's lungs and respiratory system.
  • Avoid smoke. Keep your dog away from sources of smoke, like cigarettes or campfires, as it could trigger more coughing.
  • Use a harness instead of a leash. When walking your pup outdoors, a leash that pulls on a collar around the neck might irritate your dog's throat, leading to a coughing fit. A harness pulls on your dog's chest and body instead.

A prolonged case can lead to pneumonia or other serious health problems, so let your vet know if your dog doesn't improve within the typical window of time. Remember that the most high-risk dogs are young puppies, geriatric dogs, and those with compromised immune or respiratory systems.

Preventing Kennel Cough

It's not always possible to prevent kennel cough, but dog parents can certainly try. One of the best ways to do this is through vaccination.

There is a vaccination against kennel cough, or more specifically against the Bordetella virus. It can either be injected, administered as a nasal mist (intranasal vaccination), or given by mouth in tablet or chewable form. The vaccine is usually given once a year, but it may be given every six months for more high-risk dogs. The Bordetella vaccine isn't always 100% effective in preventing kennel cough, but it goes a long way toward keeping your dog safe.

It's recommended primarily for dogs that are at a greater risk for the illness, like those that will commonly be boarded. Of course, keeping your dog up to date on their other vaccinations, like those that protect against the distemper and canine influenza viruses that often accompany the Bordetella bacteria, is another great way to minimize the risk. Talk to your veterinarian right away if your dog needs these vaccines.

So, How Long Does Kennel Cough Last and How Can I Help My Dog?

A case of kennel cough that's caused solely by the Bordetella bacteria might last as little as 10 days. More often than not, though, the issue will last for a few weeks before resolving on its own.

Kennel cough might sound bad while your pup is suffering through it, but it's usually more uncomfortable than it is dangerous. By knowing what to look out for, minimizing risk factors as much as you can, and working closely with your vet when the sickness does come around, your dog will stand the best chance of making a speedy recovery.

Vitamin Supplements for Dogs

Why do dogs need supplements? Age, environment, pollutants, and the stressors of daily life can all lead to less than optimal health for your dog. We’ve created a family of supplements to provide support in the areas your dog needs it most. Learn about Wild Earth's dog supplements.

What Is Actually In Your Dog's Food?

WAIT! BEFORE YOU GO on about your day, ask yourself: Is the dog food you're feeding your best friend really the best food out there? At its core, there’s an unhealthy meat dependency in pet food. Most of the time, meat in your pet food means: Bad ingredients. Bad practices. And bad health. Learn more about clean protein dog food.


Can Kennel Cough Be Prevented?

A vaccine is available for the bordetella bacterium, which is the most common agent to cause kennel cough. Dogs who are frequently boarded, visit doggie day care, compete in canine sports, or otherwise are exposed to large groups of dogs may benefit from the vaccine, and many training, boarding, and daycare facilities require proof of vaccination. The vaccine is available in oral, intranasal, and injectable forms, and depending on the form, it is usually initially given in two doses two to four weeks apart, followed by a booster every six months to a year.

Although most cases of kennel cough are caused by bordetella, some are caused by other agents, including the bacteria bordetella bronchiseptica, canine adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus, canine respiratory coronavirus, and mycoplasmas, so the vaccine may not prevent your dog from catching the disease.

If you notice your pet coughing or if you plan to introduce your dog to large groups of animals, speak with your veterinarian.

It’s helpful to have financial plan in should should your pet become ill or injured suddenly. Learn about AKC Pet Insurance and the AKC Visa card.


Also referred to as Bordatella, kennel cough is the most common, and one of the most serious, upper respiratory infections in dogs. Not only is this disease common, but it is also highly contagious, especially if your dog has not been vaccinated. As a pet parent, you need to know the basics about kennel cough in dogs including the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and methods of prevention.

Kennel Cough Symptoms and Causes

There are several causes of kennel cough, also known as tracheobronchitis, but the two most common are the parainfluenza virus and mycoplasma. It is also thought that canine adenovirus type 2, canine herpes virus, and reovirus may also contribute to kennel cough. In many cases, the appearance of symptoms results from a combination of these causes. Parainfluenza virus typically results in mild symptoms that only last five or six days unless a secondary bacterial infection occurs. The most common bacteria seen in cases is Bordatella bronchiseptica and it typically causes kennel cough symptoms to manifest within two to 14 days of exposure.

The most common of the kennel cough symptoms is, of course, a dry hacking cough – in some cases, the cough is heavy enough to be followed by retching. Other kennel cough symptoms may include a watery discharge from the nose, lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, and pneumonia – only is the most serious of cases does kennel cough result in death. This is most commonly observed in puppies and in immunocompromised dogs. In mild cases of kennel cough, infected dogs typically continue to eat and behave normally.

Treatment Options

Kennel cough is typically diagnosed through the observation of symptoms and through a history of exposure to other dogs, often in a kennel or rescue facility. In order to identify the individual agents involved in the disease, bacterial cultures and other tests may be performed. Once the diagnosis has been made, there are several treatment options for kennel cough: medical treatment with antibiotics, cough suppressants, steroids, and aerosol therapy. In mild cases of the disease, cough suppressants and antibiotics are most common. For severe cases, antibiotics are often used, especially if the dog is showing signs of pneumonia or if he has stopped eating. In severe cases, steroids and cough suppressants are generally avoided because the dog may be at risk for immunosuppression.

Prevention Methods

Perhaps the most common and effective method for preventing kennel cough in dogs is vaccination. Many vets will agree, however, that the only way to truly prevent kennel cough is to avoid exposing your dog to other dogs. Unfortunately, vaccination does not entirely protect your dog from contracting the disease, but it may help to lessen its severity. Certain vaccines can be used on puppies as young as three weeks of age and the puppy will be protected within three to four days of the vaccine. It is important to realize, that after vaccination dogs are capable of shedding the virus for several days – it takes up to four days for a dog to be protected after receiving vaccination. Once a dog has been vaccinated, a yearly booster is recommended – if the dog will be in regular contact with other dogs, however, a booster every six months may be recommended.

Kennel cough is a highly contagious and often serious disease that can affect dogs of all ages. The best way to protect your dog is to learn all you can about the disease and to have him vaccinated according to your vet’s recommendations.


Is Kennel Cough is Serious?

Kennel cough is a common condition in dogs showing sneezing, coughing, cold, anorexia, and loss of conditions. It is not so serious in adult dogs, while their immunity is strong. In the case of puppies or elderly dogs, infectious tracheobronchitis is a serious disease as turned into pneumonia. Healthy dogs do not require any treatment, but you must be cautious about the puppies and older ones.

Epidemiology and Transmission of Kennel Cough

Infection occurs mainly by direct contact and short distance aerosol transmission. Indirect contact by fomites, on feed bowls, for example, is possible but less critical. Ideal conditions for spread occur in several circumstances: Boarding kennels, dog shows, training clubs, race meetings Veterinary hospitals, or waiting rooms.

The disease often peaks in late summer towards the end of the holiday season. Cases do occur in individual pets with no open kennel or group contact. The enzootic condition with coughing in successive litters of pups may prove a problem in large breeding kennels or puppy trading premises with a high or continuous throughout of animals.

Clinical Signs of Kennel Cough

Coughing is the leading and often only clinical sign. Typically harsh, dry, and hacking, it is readily induced by excitement, exercise, or tracheal palpation. A moist, more obviously productive cough is less common. Coughing may last only 2-3 days, typically resolves within two weeks, and exceptionally persists for over three weeks. In severe cases, bouts of paroxysmal cough end in retching that may be interpreted as vomiting by inexperienced owners.

Recently fed dogs do rarely regurgitate food during paroxysms the respiratory rate is usually standard, although pups with CAV-induced disease may be markedly tachypnoeic and hyperpnoeic. Lung sounds may be harsh, sneezing, and serous to mucoid, tonsillar enlargement, and cranial or cervical lymphadenopathy is often present. Depression, fever, anorexia, and markedly abnormal lung sounds indicate supervening pneumonia.

Procedures of Diagnosis of the Disease

The typical clinical syndrome in individual cases or kennel outbreaks is easily recognized without the need for ancillary tests or laboratory back-up. Specific etiological diagnosis is time-consuming, expensive, and often unrewarding, and can probably only be justified in severe kennel outbreaks or if there is a question of litigation. There is no single test to diagnose the disease. Bordetella bronchiseptica can be difficult to isolate from nasopharyngeal swabs.

Tracheal aspirates or swabs may be more useful nasopharyngeal swabs in transport medium for viral isolation are the best collected from early, not established cases since most viral transport media contain antibacterials, separate samples are needed for bacterial and viral culture demonstration of rising antibody titers on paired sera may confirm infection with specific agents.

Single samples are unhelpful since antibody is widespread. Animals with good local antibody responses may not show a classical rising serum antibody response fatal cases in young pups necessitate post-mortem examination. Samples of lung and trachea should be taken for histopathology in 10% formalin. Deep tracheobronchial swabs for bacterial and viral culture should be collected aseptically. The X-ray can be used to see the large infected area.

Treatment of Infectious Tracheobronchitis

Most cases of kennel cough recover uneventfully without treatment in 2-3 weeks. Antibacterials are indicated in individuals with evidence of pneumonia or risk of transmission of bordetella is to more susceptible animals Trimethoprim-sulphonamide, oxytetracycline, ampicillin, and cephalexin are usually effective against Bordetella bronchiseptica in vitro. Maximal doses should be given for up to 10 days aerosolization with gentamicin or kanamycin can reduce Bordetella burdens in airways but is impractical in most circumstances.

Short-acting glucocorticoids and antitussives are considered by many to be effective. There are contraindicated in dogs with pneumonia, immunosuppression, or very moist productive cough. Bronchodilators may ease the wheezing cough, where there is a suspicion of bronchospasm. Unnecessary excitement and exercise should be avoided in your dog. Your Racing and working dogs should not resume normal training or activity until they have recorded fully. Shoulder harnesses may prevent stimulation of coughing by pressure from collars.

How Do You Get Rid of Kennel Cough?

Control your kennels depends not only on the use of vaccines but also on good kennel design, management, and hygiene.

  • The vaccine against Bordetella bronchiseptica and CPIV reduces the likelihood of kennel cough but can not be guaranteed to prevent it.
  • The vaccine should ideally be administered 1-2 weeks before an anticipated challenge.
  • Small kennel blocks with good ventilation are preferable to large units with common, poorly ventilated airspaces.
  • Kennels should be used on a rota system to prevent mixing new occupants with long-stay residents and to allow periodic depopulation, cleaning, and disinfection.
  • Food and water bowls and other movable equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Disinfectants recommended for CPIV will also be effective against the agents of kennel cough.


Watch the video: Pet Expert: Advice On Treating Kennel Cough