Kennel Cough in Dogs

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Kennel cough, which is also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is a very common, contagious disease in dogs. Several different microorganisms can cause the symptoms associated with kennel cough. The bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica is frequently to blame, but parainfluenza, canine influenza and other viruses can play a role too.

Which Dogs Are Most at Risk?

Dogs that are stressed, have an underlying respiratory disease, come in frequent contact with other dogs, and/or have weak immune systems are at the greatest risk of coming down with kennel cough. Boarding and grooming facilities, animal shelters, and dog shows are all perfect places for the disease to spread, but anywhere an infected dog can cough or sneeze, leaving behind infectious bacteria and viruses for another dog to pick up, presents a risk.

"It is probably not too surprising that the primary symptom associated with this disease is a cough"

The Signs of Kennel Cough

It is probably not too surprising that the primary symptom associated with this disease is a cough. The cough tends not to produce a lot of phlegm, but it can occur frequently throughout the day and last for weeks. As long as the infection remains isolated to the windpipe and larger passageways for air, a dog may not show any other signs of illness. If, however, the infection spreads deeper into the lungs and causes pneumonia, the following clinical signs may develop:

  • Fever
  • Loss of energy and appetite
  • Nasal discharge
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A cough that produces a lot of phlegm

Veterinary and Home Care for Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough Vaccine

If you suspect your dog has kennel cough and he appears healthy in all other regards, you can consider letting him recover at home without a trip to the veterinarian. Keep him away from other dogs to prevent him from spreading the disease and reduce his activity level. Exercise can exacerbate your dog's cough, irritating his throat and delaying his recovery. But, dogs that appear to be getting worse rather than better or those that fail to return to normal after a week or two should visit the veterinarian.

If after a thorough physical exam, your vet thinks that kennel cough is the most likely diagnosis, he or she may prescribe a cough suppressant, pet meds, and possibly antibiotics to speed your dog's recovery. X-rays, blood work, other diagnostic tests and more aggressive treatment may be necessary if your dog fails to recover as expected or if your vet suspects that pneumonia or another disease is to blame for your dog's symptoms.


Vaccines are available that protect against some, but not all of the causes of kennel cough. Dogs that have some contact with other dogs should be vaccinated for Bordetella bronchiseptica annually, while those that frequent kennels, groomers or shows can benefit from vaccination every six months. Talk to your veterinarian about which other vaccines and what vaccination schedule is best for your dog, and remember that even a well-protected dog is not completely immune to kennel cough.

The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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