Kennel Cough: How to Get Rid of It

Has your dog been coughing a lot lately?

You might not realize that it could be suffering from a condition called kennel cough.

What is kennel cough?

This is a contagious type of cough, known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, that can have many different causes.

The good news is that most of the time kennel cough isn’t anything serious, even though Fido’s cough can make you worry that he’s choking. That said, you do want to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible, especially because it is contagious and can have complications in some cases.

Why Is It Called Kennel Cough?

So, first things first, you’re probably wondering why kennel cough is called that. When dogs are in animal shelters or kennels, the large amount of dogs kept in such small spaces can spread the condition really quickly.

Kennel cough can also be contracted by dogs in puppy shelters, so if you’ve just got a puppy from a shelter it’s good to be aware of kennel cough and keep an eye on the puppy for any symptoms, which we’ll get to in a bit.

What Actually Causes Kennel Cough?

There are lots of causes for kennel cough, but a common one is bacteria. How dogs get infected by it is by breathing the bacteria particles into their respiratory tract.

This tract contains a lining of mucus that serves to collect and trap harmful particles, but sometimes it doesn’t work as well as it should.

There are many reasons for this, and some are quite surprising because they can relate to something the dog is experiencing – stress from travel, exposure to cigarette smoke, exposure to dust, cold temperatures, and being in poorly ventilated areas, such as a kennel or shelter, can all compromise this tract lining.

When this mucus lining is compromised, the bacteria reaches the larynx and trachea, where it causes inflammation.

Bear in mind that kennel cough can also be transmitted via sneezing, coughing, and even barking because droplets can be released from the dog’s mouth into the air, where they are then inhaled by healthy dogs who can fall sick.

It might be surprising to discover that even shedding dander can release microscopic contaminants into the air that can infect healthy dogs. Scarily, when this bacteria is in the air it can remain alive for two weeks.

That means, a dog can still become infected for 14 days, and this is especially troubling if you consider that the bacteria can remain in dust particles.

The most common causes of kennel cough include the following bacteria or viruses:

  • Bordetella Bronchiseptica

This is the most common kennel cough cause and it can affect lots of animals, including pigs, horses, dogs, and cats.

  • Canine Parainfluenza Virus

This virus often affects animals in combination with Bordetella. It is found in the nasal and mouth secretions of affected animals for up to 14 days after they’ve been infected. When canine parainfluenza appears without Bordetella, the animals affected will have milder symptoms.

  • Canine Adenovirus 1 and 2

These are both viruses that share similar symptoms. Canine Adenovirus 1 is what causes infectious canine hepatitis, while Canine Adenovirus 2 causes respiratory disease.

  • Canine Herpesvirus

This is very similar to cold sores (herpes simplex) as well as feline herpesvirus, which is known as cat flu. Canine herpesvirus can only affect dogs, whether adult dogs or puppies. When dogs are over two weeks old and get infected by it, they will have mild respiratory symptoms, such as nasal discharge as well as coughing.

Symptoms Of Kennel Cough: What To Look Out For 

As its name implies, kennel cough has the main symptom of coughing. But you can tell that it’s kennel cough your dog’s experiencing instead of a cough from other health issues by how it’s a forceful and consistent cough.

It’s been said that the cough sounds like a goose honk. It’s a dry cough that can cause your dog to try to gag to get out whatever’s irritating it, but nothing comes out.

Besides for a persistent cough, there are other kennel cough symptoms your dog might display. These include the following:

  1. Lethargy. Many dogs with kennel cough don’t lose their energy, but some do. So, you might find that your dog doesn’t really want to play or exercise like they used to if they’ve been infected with kennel cough. If your dog’s coughing and lacks energy, then they could be suffering from kennel cough.
  2. Discharge. Dogs with kennel cough can show symptoms of eye discharge and nasal discharge. The eye discharge will take the form of watery, even runny eyes. As for the nasal discharge, keep an eye out for nasal discharge that’s clear or a bit discoloured. In the case of the latter, this could be a symptom of a secondary infection.
  3. Sneezing. Your dog might not just cough but also sneeze, which can cause him to have a runny nose.
  4. Fever. Sometimes, when kennel cough is more severe, this can cause your dog to develop symptoms such as a fever. This fever tends to be low-grade in nature and shows that the dog’s body is working hard to try to fight the infection.
  5. Foamy white phlegm. In some cases, your dog might cough up foamy, white phlegm. This is usually triggered by exercise and if the dog is wearing a leash that’s rubbing against his or her throat, as both of these things can cause more irritation to your dog’s throat.

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?

A dog with kennel cough is likely to heal within three weeks, but if your dog is older and/or has other health conditions, then they could take up to six weeks to get better.

How Long Does It Take For Kennel Cough Symptoms To Show?

Kennel cough has an incubation period of between two and 14 days. During this time, your dog will be contagious. However, some dogs can carry the condition for several months without showing any symptoms but still be carriers.  

How Is Kennel Cough Treated?

So, what’s the treatment for your dog’s kennel cough?

Although it’s good to take your dog to the vet if you suspect he or she has kennel cough, most of these cases will get better on their own without your dog requiring treatment. That said, your vet might prescribe antibiotic medication to speed up recovery or reduce the severity of symptoms.

Your vet might also give your dog anti-inflammatories as well as cough suppressants so that your dog doesn’t feel miserable while their body fights the infection.

Just remember to not provide any cough medications made for humans such as cough drops until the vet has authorized you to do so as it may do more harm than good.

How Your Vet Will Diagnose Kennel Cough

The tricky thing about kennel cough is that your vet won’t be able to give your dog just one test to diagnose the condition. So, it’s about checking the symptoms that your dog is experiencing.

If your dog’s showing some symptoms that point to it having kennel cough, then they could be diagnosed and treated for it.

Your vet will probably take swabs to find out what bacteria is responsible for the symptoms. Some dogs will need to have radiographs, but this is usually required if the vet thinks that your dog’s experiencing complications from kennel cough.

What You Should Do If Your Dog Has Kennel Cough

Your dog has kennel cough. Now what?

You should try to make them as comfortable as possible while preventing complications. Here are some important tips to follow:

  • Keep your dog away from other dogs in the home to prevent the bacterial infection from spreading. It’s also good that you keep your dog in well-ventilated areas.
  • When you take your dog for a walk, use a harness instead of a collar. This will help to prevent your dog from coughing due to the collar rubbing into its neck, and will therefore prevent your dog from coughing up white, foamy phlegm that we described earlier.
  • If you want to take your dog to the vet to find out if they’re suffering from kennel cough or something else, it’s always a good idea to call ahead first. You don’t want to bring your dog to a place where other dogs and animals will be present if you suspect that your dog has kennel cough because it’s so contagious. Your vet will advise you on what to do. If the vet wants you to bring your dog in for an examination, they’ll tell you when it’s safe for you to do so, such as when other animals aren’t around.
  • Try to limit their excitement. You love playing with your puppy and love seeing them get so happy about their toys, but you should try to limit their excitement while they’re trying to fight off kennel cough. The reason why is because excitement can create activity in the airways, thus increasing irritation.
  • Keep your dog indoors as much as you can. This can be difficult to do, especially if your dog loves to get a lot of exercise on a daily basis. If you simply must take your dog outside for exercise, do so when other dogs aren’t around, such as during quiet hours at the local park. Keep them indoors if there are environmental irritants in the air.

To help relieve your dog or puppy’s kennel cough, there are many things you can do at home.

  • Place a cool-mist humidifier in the room. This will help to ease congestion if that’s what your dog’s experiencing. It will also help to hydrate irritated nostrils and eyes.
  • Administer warm cloths. If your dog’s got eye or nasal discharge, you can soften the secretions with the use of warm and wet cloths. You should never try to remove hard or crusty discharge as this can be painful for your pet.
  • If your puppy or dog is battling with a loss of appetite, it’s important to ensure they stay hydrated. You can make their water much more appetizing by adding a bit of chicken broth to it. This will ensure that your pup doesn’t become dehydrated and is especially a good tip during the colder months when your pup might not want to drink cold water.
  • Keep your dog away from potential irritants. You don’t want to further irritate your dog’s airways, so make sure you keep them away from irritants such as cigarette smoke, fireplaces, and campfires.

When Kennel Cough Can Be Serious

When Kennel Cough Can Be Serious

If your dog’s been having symptoms of kennel cough for many weeks and it doesn’t seem to be clearing up, you should bring them back to the vet.

This is because when kennel cough becomes serious it can lead to pneumonia. In fact, if your dog’s displaying a wet cough that won’t go away, this can quickly become life-threatening pneumonia.

Since kennel cough can be similar to other conditions, it’s so important to take your dog to the vet if it’s got symptoms such as a persistent dry cough.

Canine distemper virus, influenza, asthma, and even heart disease are some conditions that have very similar symptoms to kennel cough, so you want to rule these out before you wait out your pet’s coughing.

Is There A Vaccine For Kennel Cough?

Is There A Vaccine For Kennel Cough?

There are some vaccines available for kennel cough, and these can be taken in different forms. For example, there’s an injected vaccine, an oral one, and a nasal mist one.

However, the risk associated with kennel cough vaccines is that they can’t always protect your canine. This is because kennel cough can be caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria.

Vaccines will target and prevent against the Bordetella infection, adenovirus, and parainfluenza virus, so that is something to ask your vet about if you’re keen on having your dog vaccinated.

When it comes to vaccine side effects, they are not common. If your dog experiences side effects, they’re probably going to be mild.

Symptoms include soreness where the injection vaccine was administered, allergic reactions, lethargy, or mild sneezing and clear nasal discharge if the vaccine takes the form of intranasal products. When given intraorally, the vaccine could cause symptoms such as lethargy.

How To Prevent Your Dog From Getting Kennel Cough

There are some important things you can do to prevent or minimize the risk of your dog getting kennel cough. These include:

  • Be careful when taking your dog to public parks and other areas where there are many dogs present.
  • Don’t let your dog socialize with dogs it doesn’t know. Even sniffing each other’s butts or touching noses can lead to the infection being transmitted between dogs.
  • Don’t let your dog share items with other dogs. These items include food and water bowls, toys, and sticks.
  • Be careful if you’re taking your dog to kennels or grooming parlors. While these can’t always be avoided, you definitely want to be proactive about ensuring your dog will be safe when at such places. You can do this by asking the facility in question what they’re doing to ensure the safety and health of the dogs. For example, you could find out what their sanitization practices are and how often they are done.
  • You should also disinfect your home regularly to prevent your other pets and members of your household.  

Can Your Dog Transmit Kennel Cough To You?

Some health conditions can be passed from dogs to humans, but is kennel cough one of them?

Although most viruses that affect dogs can’t be passed on to humans, the bacteria often responsible for kennel cough – Bordetella bronchiseptica – can infect people. This is rare, though, and it’s mainly a risk factor for people who have weakened immune systems.

Related Questions

Should you keep your sick dog away from people in the house?

If you live in a household where you have a dog with kennel cough and people who have weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, then you should keep the dog away from them until the dog has recovered.

Can your dog get kennel cough again?

Once your dog’s had kennel cough they are not immune to getting it again. However, if your dog’s caught Bordetella bronchiseptica, they will be immune to this bacteria for between six and 12 months.


If your dog’s cough is sounding strange or unlike their usual cough, he or she might be suffering from kennel cough. While it seems serious, based on how your dog’s coughing so much, the good news is that most cases of kennel cough don’t lead to serious complications.

In this article, we’ve looked at the most important things to know about kennel cough so that you can keep your furry friend happy, healthy, and safe.

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