The Basics About Kennel Cough

The Basics About Kennel Cough

Your dog can catch a serious cold—here's what you need to know about kennel cough.

You've probably heard the term Kennel Cough—also known as Bordatella or tracheobronchitis—tossed around at your vet's office or the dog park. It's the most common, as well as one of the most serious, upper respiratory infections your dog can catch. There's a reason why kennel cough is common, and that's because this disease is highly contagious, especially if your dog hasn't been vaccinated. Do your part as a responsible pet parent and bone up on the basics about kennel cough including the causes, symptoms, treatment options and methods of prevention.

Symptoms and Causes

There are several causes of kennel cough, but the two most common are the parainfluenza virus and mycoplasma. Also thought to contribute to kennel cough are canine adenovirus type 2, canine herpes virus and reovirus. In some cases, the appearance of symptoms results from a combination of these causes. When dogs catch the parainfluenza virus, it results in mild symptoms that only last five or six days (unless a secondary bacterial infection occurs). The most common bacterium 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 a dry hacking cough. Other kennel cough symptoms may include a watery discharge from the nose, lethargy, fever, loss of appetite and pneumonia. Only in the most serious of cases does kennel cough result in death. Kennel cough usually strikes puppies and in immunocompromised dogs. If your dog catches a mild case of kennel cough, he'll typically continue to eat and behave normally.

Treatment Options

If your dog has been exposed to kennel cough, it's most likely he picked it up because of exposure to other dogs, often in a kennel or daycare facility. Your vet will want to identify the individual agents involved, so bacterial cultures and other tests may be performed. Once the diagnosis has been made, there are several treatment options for kennel cough. These include medical treatment with antibiotics, cough suppressants, steroids and aerosol therapy. In mild cases, cough suppressants and antibiotics are most common. For severe cases, antibiotics are used, especially if the dog is showing signs of pneumonia or if he's stopped eating. In severe cases, steroids and cough suppressants are generally avoided because the dog may be at risk for immunosuppression.

Prevention is Always the Best Medicine

The most common method for preventing kennel cough in dogs is vaccination. But the most effective method is to avoid exposing your dog to other dogs, and in a daycare situation, the warning of an outbreak can come too late to prevent it. This is because a vaccination doesn't have 100 percent effectiveness, but you may want to get it in order to help to lessen its severity. Puppies as young as three weeks of age can be vaccinated and your pooch will be protected within three to four days of the vaccine. Once your dog has been vaccinated, your vet will recommend a yearly booster. This is something you should think about doing, especially if your dog is in regular contact with other pooches. The more you know about kennel cough, the better able you'll be able to protect and treat your dog from its nasty effects. Talk to your vet about the best options for you and your pooch.

Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic is the Editor of, the flagship site to over 70 different pet communities, which offers pet parents a one-stop-info-shop for all things dog and cat related. Amy's been with PetGuide since the beginning, guided by the wisdom of her Shih Tzu mix and furry roommate, Oscar. Together, this pet power couple has their paw on the pulse of the pet industry, sniffing out trends, advice, news, tasty treat recipes and other tail-wagging stories.
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