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Kennel Cough in Dogs and How to Beat it

Canine tracheobronchitis or bordetellosis is more commonly known as Kennel cough and is a respiratory disease that is very contagious amongst dogs. Typically the bronchi and the trachea become inflamed and it affects most dogs at least once in their life. It is a disease that affects dogs all around the world and it covers several upper respiratory infections caused by the bacteria Bordetella Bronchisepta, the virus Parainfluenza and adenoviruses.


Dogs who are more at risk

Young puppies and senior dogs are more likely to suffer from complications that develop from Kennel cough as both immune systems are diminished, one is still immature and the other is aging. Also at risk of complications are pregnant dogs, ones who are not vaccinated and ones who already have respiratory diseases. While the name Kennel cough may lead you to the impressions that this is something that only affects dogs kept in kennels this is not the case. It is spread with the coughing and sneezing symptoms it creates and is highly contagious so any dog who comes into contact with a dog who has it could catch it. If your dog uses dog parks, goes to shows, visits the neighbor's dogs, visits a groomers, there is a chance of catching it. The kennel part just comes from the fact that dogs in close proximity to each other as in a kennel are more likely to be infected if just one of them has it.

Factors that increase the chances of contagion include being in a crowded area with other dogs, being somewhere that is not well ventilated, cold temperatures, stress caused from travel and exposure to cigarette smoke and dust.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

Symptom are pretty obvious and clear affecting the windpipe, throat and nose;

A hard dry cough


Gagging up mucus


Diagnosing Kennel cough in your dog

If your dog starts showing signs that you suspect is kennel cough you should call your vet straight away and keep him from other dogs. You will need to discuss his medical history as well as any contact he has had with other dogs recently. Your vet may have some tests done to confirm a diagnosis of kennel cough including blood tests, a urinalysis, x-rays of his chest and examining his feces. If your vet confirms it to be kennel cough and gives you a treatment to give the dog but he does not respond to it, then additional tests will be carried out like taking bacterial cultures to see what microorganisms are the cause and to get a better treatment option for him.


Once the vet has done his tests and heard his history and made the diagnosis of kennel cough there is the treatment and some things to do at home with your dog. First of all action needs to be taken to break the circle of coughing, the throat and trachea are irritated which causes coughing and that cough causes irritation which causes the cough and so on. As well as taking antibiotics to treat the disease it is important that the dog gets plenty of rest. Anything that makes him pant needs to be avoided so no long walks or playing for a bit. When a dog pants his throat and trachea actually get drier and it tickles the throat which is something to avoid when he has a cough.

Another thing that can make him cough more is walking with just a collar and leash. If your dog tends to pull on his leash it makes the collar push against his throat which will trigger more coughing. Only take him for short gentle walks and use a chest harness to prevent this pressure.

Is your dog contagious for long?

This is probably the most commonly asked question when an owner is faced with a dog with kennel cough for the first time. The answer cannot be precise as it can vary between dogs, but it would be a good idea to presume he needs to stay away from other dogs for at least ten days. The cough should ease up within a few days of treatment so if it does not, talk to your vet again. You may need further testing done on your dog. Take it easy for that time, you do not want the cough to develop into more serious complications such as pneumonia or chronic kennel cough. Just keep him isolated from other dogs and try to keep him calm and rested.

Preventing kennel cough

There is a yearly vaccination for kennel cough and those who are at high risk i.e dogs who are around other dogs all the time should get vaccinated. That includes;

Show dogs


Kennel dogs

Those that spend time in boarding care facilities

Dog events

Dog training courses

Puppy training courses

They can be vaccinated against canine adenovirus, bordetella bronchiseptica and the virus canine parainfluenza. It is still possible for vaccinated dogs to catch this disease but usually it is at least in a less severe form so still watch for it when he spends time near other dogs. This is because viruses change quite often. The cough though is less harsh, the fever is not as high, less risk of complications and he heals faster.

In most cases Kennel cough does not cross over to infect people, but there have been some incidences where young children or people with immune systems that are compromised have got it. You would need to discuss this possibility with your vet and your doctor.