Kennel Cough: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention, and FAQs

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kennel cough

As a dog owner, it’s essential to keep your furry friend healthy and happy. One of the most common respiratory infections that can affect dogs is kennel cough, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis. In this guide, we’ll explain what kennel cough is, how it spreads, and what you can do to prevent it.

Understanding Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a contagious respiratory disease that affects dogs of all ages and breeds. It’s called kennel cough because it’s commonly spread in places where many dogs are kept together, like kennels, dog shows, and dog parks.

Causes of Kennel Cough

  1. Viruses. Kennel cough can be caused by several viruses, including the canine adenovirus, canine parainfluenza virus, and canine coronavirus.
  1. Bacteria. The most common bacterium that causes kennel cough is Bordetella bronchiseptica, but other bacteria can also contribute to the infection.
  1. Other Factors. Kennel cough can also be caused by other factors, such as stress, environmental irritants, and allergies.

Transmission of Kennel Cough

  1. Direct Contact. Kennel cough is highly contagious and can spread through direct contact with an infected dog’s saliva or nasal discharge.
  1. Indirect Contact. Kennel cough can also spread through indirect contact with contaminated objects, such as toys, food bowls, and water dishes.

Breeds at Risk

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that affects dogs of all breeds and ages. However, some dog breeds are more susceptible to this illness than others.

Among the breeds that are more prone to kennel cough are the following:

  • Bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • Chihuahuas
  • German Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Beagles
  • Rottweilers

It’s important to note that while these breeds may be more susceptible to kennel cough, any dog can contract the illness if exposed to an infected dog or contaminated environment.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough can cause several symptoms that vary in severity. The most common sign is a dry, hacking cough.

Common Signs to Look Out for

  1. Dry Cough. The cough caused by kennel cough is typically dry and can sound like a honking noise.
  1. Gagging or Choking. Some dogs may gag or choke while coughing.
  1. Sneezing. Sneezing can also be a symptom of kennel cough.
  1. Nasal Discharge. Some dogs may have a runny nose or discharge from their eyes.
  1. Fever. A fever can be a sign of a more severe infection.
  1. Lethargy. Kennel cough can cause your dog to feel tired and lethargic.

Diagnosis of Kennel Cough

Physical Examination

Your vet will perform a physical exam to check for any signs of respiratory infection, including listening to your dog’s lungs.

Diagnostic Tests

  1. Blood Tests. Blood tests can help detect the presence of viruses and bacteria.
  1. Chest X-rays. X-rays can show if your dog has pneumonia, which can be a complication of kennel cough.
  1. Tracheal Wash. A tracheal wash involves collecting a sample of fluid from your dog’s trachea to check for bacteria and viruses.
  1. Bronchoscopy. A bronchoscopy involves inserting a small camera into your dog’s lungs to check for any abnormalities.

Treatment of Kennel Cough

Home Care

  1. Rest. Your dog needs plenty of rest to recover from kennel cough.
  1. Humidifier. A humidifier can help ease your dog’s coughing and moisten the air in your home.
  1. Nutrition. Make sure your dog stays hydrated and provide them with easy-to-digest food.
  1. Medication. Your vet may prescribe cough suppressants, antibiotics, or other medication to help manage your dog’s symptoms.

Veterinary Care

  1. Antibiotics. They can help fight bacterial infections that may cause or worsen kennel cough.
  1. Cough Suppressants. Cough suppressants can help ease your dog’s coughing and make them more comfortable.
  1. Nebulization. Nebulization involves using a machine to deliver medication directly to your dog’s respiratory system.
  1. Hospitalization. In severe cases, your dog may need to be hospitalized to receive treatment and supportive care.

Complications of Kennel Cough


Pneumonia can be a severe complication of kennel cough, especially in young puppies or dogs with weakened immune systems.


Bronchitis is a condition where the bronchial tubes in the lungs become inflamed and can also be a complication of kennel cough.

Chronic Respiratory Disease

In some cases, kennel cough can lead to chronic respiratory disease, which can be difficult to treat and manage.

Prevention of Kennel Cough


There are several vaccines available that can help prevent kennel cough, including the Bordetella vaccine and the combination vaccine that includes protection against other viruses.Talk to your vet about the best vaccination schedule for your dog based on their lifestyle and risk factors.

Hygiene Practices

  1. Cleaning and Disinfecting. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting your dog’s toys, bedding, and other items can help prevent the spread of infection.
  1. Separation of Sick Dogs. If your dog shows any signs of respiratory infection, keep them away from other dogs to prevent the spread of infection.

Limiting Exposure

Avoid taking your dog to places where many dogs are kept together, like kennels, dog shows, and dog parks, especially if your dog hasn’t been vaccinated.


Kennel cough is a common respiratory infection that can affect dogs of all ages and breeds. By understanding its causes, symptoms, and preventive measures, you can help keep your furry friend healthy and happy. If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, contact your vet for prompt diagnosis and treatment.


Can Kennel Cough be Spread to Humans?

No, kennel cough is a respiratory infection that only affects dogs and cannot be spread to humans.

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?

The duration of kennel cough varies, but most dogs recover within two to three weeks.

Can Vaccination Prevent All Types of Kennel Cough?

Vaccination can help prevent some types of kennel cough, but it’s not 100% effective at preventing all forms of the infection.

Is Kennel Cough Contagious?

Yes, kennel cough is highly contagious and can spread quickly from dog to dog.

What Should I Do If My Dog Gets Kennel Cough?

If your dog shows any signs of kennel cough, contact your vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment options.

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