cute dog under a blanket

Kennel Cough in dogs: causes, symptoms and treatment reading-time-icon 3 min read

Does your dog have a dry, hacking cough, but appear fine in every other way? They may be suffering from Kennel Cough.

Let's take a closer look at Kennel Cough, we’ll go over some common queries and how to keep your dog protected.

Summary:

  • Kennel Cough is a highly contagious respiratory infection
  • Symptoms include a dry, hacking cough
  • Kennel Cough usually goes away on its own but may cause problems for puppies or elderly dogs
  • Contact your vet if symptoms persist for more than 7 days
  • Annual vaccination will keep your dog protected, and is required if you plan to leave your dog at a kennel or daycare centre

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough (also known as Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis) is a common respiratory infection that affects dogs. 

It’s caused by several different bacteria and viruses, mainly Bordetella Bronchiseptica and Canine Parainfluenza. 

The infection attacks the dog’s respiratory tract and causes inflammation of the upper airway, making them cough repeatedly.

In most cases, Kennel Cough is not serious and symptoms go away after around 3 weeks. However, Kennel Cough can make dogs more vulnerable to secondary illnesses or infections, especially young puppies and older, more vulnerable dogs. 

terrier at sunset

How do dogs get Kennel Cough?

Because Kennel Cough is airborne and highly contagious, dogs are most likely to get it when they’re surrounded by lots of other dogs - hence the name Kennel Cough!

But dogs don’t just catch Kennel Cough at the kennels. The bacteria can linger up to 48 hours on any surface an affected dog has come into contact with, such as plants, food bowls, toys and other objects.

Certain lifestyle factors can also make a dog more likely to get Kennel Cough. These include:

  • A cold or damp living area
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Exposure to excess dust
  • Being in a crowded or stressful environment

The incubation period for Kennel Cough is 2-14 days. This means a dog could be exposed to the bacteria and not show any symptoms for 2 weeks. Dogs can also carry the infection for months, without themselves becoming ill or showing symptoms.   

What does Kennel Cough sound like?

The cough may produce mucus or it may be a dry, hacking sound. Kennel Cough often sounds as if your dog has something stuck in their throat - they may gag and swallow afterwards. The coughing will be worse immediately after exercise, or if your dog is excited. 

If your dog is coughing repeatedly but they don’t seem ill in any other way, they’re most likely suffering from Kennel Cough. 

Could your dog be reverse sneezing instead? 

Other signs of Kennel Cough 

In most cases, the only symptoms of Kennel Cough is the coughing itself, but further symptoms can include:

A dog with Kennel Cough usually recovers quickly without treatment, but it’s always best to visit your vet to make sure it's Kennel Cough they're suffering from, and not another condition.

How to protect your dog

Luckily, Kennel Cough is easy to prevent – just talk to your vet about Kennel Cough vaccinations.

The vaccine doesn’t provide 100% protection, but it does help to keep your dog safe, and will lessen the severity of their symptoms. 

The vaccine lasts about a year. There are lots of different strains of Kennel Cough, and dogs can get it more than once - just like the common cold in humans - so your dog will need to be vaccinated annually to maintain their level of protection.

Taking your dog to the kennels?

Most kennels won’t take dogs that aren’t up to date with their Kennel Cough vaccinations, and the vaccine takes about 7-10 days to take effect, so be sure to plan ahead if you’re going on holiday.

How to treat Kennel Cough

Make sure your dog has plenty of water, nutritious food, and a comfortable place to rest. Keep their living area clean, dry and well ventilated. 

Avoid putting any excess pressure on your dog’s windpipe - use a harness on walks instead of a lead and collar. 

Keep your dog away from other dogs while they’re coughing too - you don't want them to spread Kennel Cough to another dog!

cocker spaniel with tongue out

What if my dog’s symptoms get worse?

Kennel Cough can leave dogs vulnerable to secondary infections and in rare cases, may lead to pneumonia - particularly in puppies or older dogs with a compromised immune system.

If this is the case, your dog may need antibiotics or specialist cough medication. Contact your vet right away if you spot any of the following:

  • Coughing continues for more than 7 days
  • Your dog loses their appetite
  • They develop a fever
  • They contract other symptoms, or are not themselves in any way

Can humans get Kennel Cough? 

Most canine viruses won’t affect humans. Bordetella Bronchiseptica, the main bacteria associated with Kennel Cough, can infect humans - but this is incredibly rare.

Need more info?

For more info on Kennel Cough, contact your local vet.

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.