What You Really Need To Know About Kennel Cough In Dogs

With warmer spring weather finally starting to show, I’m beginning to receive more messages from pet owners concerned that their dogs may be suffering from kennel cough. What is kennel cough? How can you tell if your dog has it, and what do you do if he does? Here’s everything you really need to know about kennel cough in dogs!

Although kennel cough can affect dogs of any age, it is most dangerous in young puppies. The disease isn't seen very often in older dogs, and most adult dogs are less likely to show any clinical signs after infection.

What You Really Need To Know About Kennel Cough In Dogs

kennel cough in dogs

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is a vague term used to describe an extremely contagious condition in which coughing is undoubtedly the most noticeable symptom. The condition is known to veterinarians as infectious tracheobronchitis.

Several bacteria and viruses can cause kennel cough. Since the infection is so contagious, it is easily spread when dogs are in close quarters together. It spreads like wildfire in dogs that are housed together in kennels (shelters, boarding, etc…), hence the name “kennel cough”.

What does it sound like?

Have you ever heard a goose honking? When your dog has a kennel cough, he will have a very noticeable cough, unlike a regular cough associated with a cold. The loud “honking” sound may be accompanied by a runny nose, wheezing, lethargy, and/or a loss of appetite.

How do dogs contract this infection?

When I said kennel cough was extremely contagious, I meant it! While your dog may contract kennel cough while staying at a boarding facility, it doesn’t take much exposure at all to come down with this sickness.

Your dog could contract kennel cough while sniffing another dog during a walk, playing at the dog park, or sharing a communal water dish at a local dog-friendly establishment.

How is kennel cough treated?

Uncomplicated cases of kennel cough will usually clear up on their own after 2-3 weeks. If your dog has an underlying health condition, you’ll need to seek veterinary care immediately.

Even if your dog has a mild case, you can ask your veterinarian for a consult. They may prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or a cough suppressant to help with the symptoms.

Is there a vaccine?

If your dog is boarded frequently or attends doggy daycare, your veterinarian will likely recommend the Bordetella vaccine. Like vaccinations for humans, giving your dog this vaccine does not mean that he is guaranteed to be protected from kennel cough.

A recent study showed that between 40-60% of all dogs who suffered with kennel cough, had a history of being vaccinated. In a 2004 study, 972 dogs were evaluated. Researchers found that the kennel cough vaccine was around 20% effective in reducing coughing compared with a placebo vaccine.

Kennel cough in dogs is a very serious health problem for pet owners to deal with, and it can have disastrous effects on your pet's health and well-being. But, it's currently one of the most actively studied conditions in canines, and there is hope as well as effective treatments to deal with this infection.

READ NEXT: Vaccinating Your Dog – Everything You Need To Know

Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.