Kennel Cough in Dogs

Kennel Cough: Treatment and Prevention

Kennel Cough in Dogs

Kennel cough, scientifically known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a common upper respiratory infection seen in dogs. It’s the canine equivalent of the human cold, and much like the flu, it spreads easily within dog populations, particularly in areas where pets are in close proximity.

Understanding this illness, its treatment, and prevention are vital for pet owners and those who work closely with dogs. This blog post will explore the in-depth details of kennel cough, providing comprehensive information on the symptoms, causes, treatment options, and, most importantly, the preventive measures you can take to safeguard your furry friend.

Understanding Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is much more than a simple cough; it’s a complex respiratory condition. It can be caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria, with the most common culprits being the canine parainfluenza virus and the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica. This condition is highly contagious and often affects dogs in enclosed spaces with poor air circulation – think kennels or shelters – but it can affect any dog regardless of where they’ve been.

coughing dog

Symptoms and Causes

Dogs with such disease present with a dry, hacking cough that sounds as if something is stuck in their throat. This is often accompanied by retching and watery nasal discharge. In severe cases, the cough can persist and be so forceful that it may even cause vomiting. Dogs with kennel cough often seem otherwise healthy, which may deceive pet owners into thinking that a cough may resolve on its own. However, prompt treatment is essential to prevent further complications such as pneumonia.

kennel cough in dogs xray

Transmission and Risks

Transmission occurs through the air from one dog to another, similar to how we catch a cold. This can happen through direct contact, including nose-to-nose interactions, as well as indirect contact with contaminated surfaces. Dogs at higher risk include those in close quarters with other dogs, such as in kennels or shelters, or those exposed to places frequented by many dogs, like parks or trails. The risk is especially high in those with a weakened immune system.

Treatment Options

For treatment, early intervention and proper care are crucial. While most cases of kennel cough are not severe and will resolve on their own within a few weeks, veterinarian consultation is still recommended to manage symptoms and prevent secondary infections.

Kennel Cough treatment

Veterinary Care and Medications

Veterinarians may prescribe antibiotics if a bacterial cause is suspected or cough suppressants to manage the symptoms. In severe cases, the veterinarian may also administer nebulized medications to open up the airways. It’s important to seek treatment promptly if your dog shows any signs of the cough, as this respiratory infection can progress rapidly, leading to life-threatening complications.

Home Remedies and Care Tips

There are several home care tips you can follow to ease your dog’s discomfort while they recover from kennel cough. For instance, ensure they have a quiet and stress-free environment to encourage rest. You can also use a humidifier or take your dog into a steamed-up bathroom to help relieve a dry cough. Encourage hydration and feeding by offering soft, easy-to-digest food. Additionally, keeping them up to date on their vaccinations can help lessen the severity of the cough.

dog grooming

Preventive Measures

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to kennel cough. This includes vaccinations, good hygiene practices, and creating a safe environment for your dog.

Vaccination Importance

Vaccination remains the keystone in kennel cough prevention. The Bordetella vaccine can significantly reduce the risk of infection and can be administered through injections, oral doses, or even nasal sprays. It is especially important for dogs that are in frequent contact with other dogs or those who are boarded regularly.

Hygiene Practices for Prevention

Maintaining a clean and hygienic environment is crucial in preventing the spread of kennel cough. You should give them healthy fruits and vegetables such as carrots and watermelons. Regular disinfection of common areas and sanitizing toys and food/water bowls can go a long way. Avoiding high-stress environments or overcrowding with dogs can also help minimize the risk of exposure to the disease.

Golden Retriever holding carrots

Tips for Pet Owners

Being proactive as a pet owner is the best practice to keep your beloved dog safe from kennel cough.

Recognizing Early Signs

Familiarize yourself with the early signs of kennel cough so you can address it before it becomes severe. This includes observing changes in your dog’s behavior, appetite, and, of course, any unusual coughing or nasal discharge.

Creating a Safe Environment

If your dog has kennel cough, or if you are aware of an outbreak in your area, take steps to limit contact with other dogs to prevent the disease from spreading. Isolation during the contagious period is recommended. Additionally, maintaining a stress-free and healthy lifestyle can help boost your dog’s immune system and make them more resistant to infections.

Dog Coughing


Kennel cough may be common, but it’s a condition that’s best avoided by taking the necessary preventative measures. If your dog does contract kennel cough, don’t panic; with proper care, most recover fully. But remember, the best way to deal with this illness is to stop it before it starts. Keep up with vaccinations, practice good hygiene, and be proactive about seeking veterinary care at the first sign of trouble.

Remember, as a pet owner or a professional in the pet care industry, you play a vital role in safeguarding the health of not just your dog, but the entire community of dogs. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and always prioritize the well-being of your canine companions.

FAQs about Kennel Cough

The incubation period can vary but typically ranges from 3 to 10 days. This means symptoms can appear anytime within this timeframe after exposure to the virus or bacteria causing kennel cough.

Kennel cough is predominantly a canine condition, and it is highly unlikely for humans to contract the disease from their pets. However, immunocompromised individuals should always maintain good hygiene practices when handling sick pets.

In most cases, kennel cough is not fatal. With proper care and treatment, dogs can recover without any serious complications. However, it can lead to more severe conditions such as pneumonia, especially in young puppies, older dogs, or those with pre-existing health conditions, which can be more serious.

The frequency of vaccination can depend on your dog’s lifestyle, age, and health, as well as the advice of your veterinarian. Typically, the Bordetella vaccine is recommended annually for dogs that are at higher risk of exposure.

Yes, similar to human flu vaccines, the Bordetella vaccine does not guarantee complete immunity against kennel cough but can significantly reduce the risk and severity of the infection. There are various strains of the virus and bacteria that can cause kennel cough, and the vaccine may not cover all of them.

If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, isolate them from other dogs to prevent spreading and consult with your veterinarian for the best course of action. Your veterinarian can provide advice on treatment options based on the severity of the symptoms.

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