What Is Kennel Cough And How Do Dogs Get It

Kennel Cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a frequent upper respiratory tract infection in dogs. It is highly contagious and brought on by a variety of germs and viruses, just like a human cold. In fact, because it spreads so quickly among dogs in shelters or crowded living places, the term “Kennel Cough” was invented.

The Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium is the most frequent cause. Less frequently, viruses like parainfluenza can be to blame. In some cases, the virus is the initial culprit, and then the bacteria enter the airways and prey on the already compromised respiratory system. In other instances, germs spread infection before the virus arrives and causes much more harm.

The airborne droplets from nearby dogs sneezing or coughing can spread the infection of this canine cough. When dogs breathe in bacteria or viruses that cause inflammation of the larynx (voice box) and trachea, they get kennel cough (windpipe). Additionally, infected surfaces can transmit the infection. The following are some factors that may make you more likely to get kennel cough:

  • exposure to cramped or inadequately ventilated spaces, such as those found in kennels and rescue facilities
  • large groups of dogs socialising together, such as during dog training or agility sessions or while being walked or house-sat.
  • chilly conditions
  • exposure to cigarette smoke or dust
  • tension brought on by travel

What symptoms do my dog have of kennel cough?

Has your dog developed a dry cough? If so, kennel cough may be the cause of your dog’s symptoms. Our Stockton veterinarians are here today to provide some information about this infectious illness and what you should do if your dog has it.

What is Kennel Cough in Dogs?

A frequent respiratory condition that affects dogs is kennel cough. The canine parainfluenza virus and the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica commonly cause it. These irritate and inflame the dog’s upper airway by attacking the lining of the dog’s respiratory tract. In generally healthy canines, this condition is not harmful. However, it can cause more severe secondary infections in young puppies, elderly dogs, or canines who already have compromised immune systems.

Kennel cough is a word used to describe how contagious this illness is. In environments where animals are in close proximity to one another, such kennels, dog parks, and multi-dog residences, it spreads swiftly. When dogs come into touch with droplets from an ill dog, kennel cough can spread. Direct touch with the sick dog or objects that have picked up contaminated droplets can cause this. These might be blankets, bowls, cages, or toys for dogs.

Signs of Kennel Cough in Dogs

A persistent, ineffective dry cough is the main sign of kennel cough. Typically, it sounds like a geese honking or as if your dog’s throat is blocked with something. Other symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, lack of energy, decreased appetite, and a moderate temperature.

Keep your dog away from other dogs if they show signs of kennel cough. For advice, speak with your vet immediately away.

Your veterinarian might advise keeping your dog away from other dogs because the disease is contagious. This enables you to monitor your dog’s symptoms while allowing it to relax for a few days.

On the other hand, your veterinarian could advise bringing your dog in for a checkup if the symptoms are more serious.

How Kennel Cough is Diagnosed

A process of elimination is used to identify kennel cough. Your veterinarian will initially check your pet for signs of a collapsed trachea, heartworm disease, pneumonia, asthma, cancer, heart disease, and other disorders because kennel cough symptoms are similar to those of many more serious illnesses. Coughing may also indicate the presence of the canine distemper or influenza viruses.

Your veterinarian will decide whether kennel cough is the most likely cause of your dog’s symptoms based on the examination results and medical history.

How to Treat Kennel Cough in Dogs

Healthy adult dogs can be treated for kennel cough. Your veterinarian may decide that rest is the best medicine while the infection runs its course and that no drugs are necessary (much like the human cold).

Veterinarians may recommend antibiotics to help avoid subsequent infections or cough suppressants to assist your dog’s chronic coughing if they notice more severe symptoms.

When taking your pet for walks while they are mending, it is advisable to avoid using neck collars and instead use a body harness. Additionally, since a humidifier can assist your dog’s problems, you may wish to use one in the areas where he spends time.

Kennel cough usually clears itself in a week or two in dogs. You should make a follow-up veterinary visit if your dog’s symptoms continue. In some circumstances, pneumonia can result from kennel cough.

Protecting Your Dog Against Kennel Cough

Consult your veterinarian about giving your dog a kennel cough vaccination if it interacts with other dogs frequently. Given that kennel cough can be brought on by a number of infections, this vaccine may not be a failsafe defence against it.

There are three ways to get the vaccine: via injection, nasal mist, and oral medicine. Your veterinarian will choose the most suitable type of the kennel cough vaccine if they advise it for your pet.

Note:The suggestions made in this post are for informative reasons only and are not intended to be taken as medical advise for humans or animals. Make an immediate appointment with your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment if you are worried about your pet’s health.

What treatment stops kennel cough the quickest?

It’s crucial to make sure your dog gets adequate water if he has kennel cough. It will remove the poisons from his body, which might make the infection disappear more quickly. Have your dog nibble on ice cubes if he won’t drink water.

How does a dog contract kennel cough if they are not around other canines?

Both poor hygiene and the air can spread kennel cough. As a result, it might transmit to a dog that doesn’t interact with other dogs if a household member touched an infected dog and didn’t wash their hands afterward, or if the dog is housed in a location where an infected dog recently visited.

Do dogs recover from kennel cough?

A week or two of relaxation is usually enough to treat mild instances of kennel cough, but a vet may also recommend antibiotics to avoid a secondary infection and cough medicine to relieve the symptoms.

According to Dr. Fitzgerald, nebulizers and vaporizers that use inhaled antibiotics or bronchodilators have been reported to be helpful but are rarely administered. For advice on the best course of therapy, consult your veterinarian. Additionally, it’s beneficial for owners to walk a dog with kennel cough using a harness rather than a collar because tracheal irritation can exacerbate the cough and even harm the trachea. It’s likely that all the dogs in a home with many pets have been exposed if one exhibits coughing symptoms.

How can kennel cough affect dogs in the home?

By breathing in aerosolized bacteria or viruses from an infected dog, a healthy dog can get kennel cough.

Dogs can contract the germs and/or virus from an infected dog by coughing or sneezing, as well as via infected things (toys, food/water bowls).

Approximately three to four days following exposure, dogs can develop kennel cough. The most common situations when dogs are exposed to kennel cough include crowded spaces with poor airflow and warm, damp air, such as:

If my dog has kennel cough, should I take him to the vet?

Recently, we’ve had a flood of calls, texts, and requests for appointments from pet owners worried that their dog may have kennel cough. As your go-to experts on pet care, we thought it was time for a public service announcement (PSA) regarding the infamous Kennel Cough.

Hello, springtime! Numerous itchy, scratchy, throat-tingling, coughing pets appear as a result of the moisture in the air, the emergence of new plants, and the germs that thrive in this Spring weather. About 40% of concerned pet owners who come to Pawsh believing their animals have kennel cough really have seasonal allergies! Yes, just like people, pets are also impacted by the changing of the seasons.

Let’s move on to some Kennel Cough facts now that that is out of the way.

Kennel cough is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of respiratory illnesses that are extremely contagious. Similar to how the common cold is shared in child daycare, kennel cough, medically known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is easily transmitted from dog to dog through aerosol droplets, direct contact, or contact with contaminated surfaces like food and water bowls, toys, or kennel runs. The location where many dogs congregate is where your dog is most likely to pick it up, but it can also be picked up from any contaminated environment, and if you spend a lot of time with dogs at work or while volunteering, you might carry it home to your dog.

DO NOT STRESS, KENNEL COUGH IS NOT DEADLY, BUT in rare instances, the virus could cause bronchopneumonia in pups and chronic bronchitis in older or immunocompromised dogs, thus it is crucial to have your dog examined if they exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • Coughing violently and frequently with a “horn honking
  • A hacking “clear foam
  • Sneezing
  • Lethargy
  • reduced appetite
  • little fever

When your dog has their initial puppy vaccinations, they will receive the bordetella vaccine to help increase their resistance to the Kennel Cough virus. Kennel Cough is HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS, hence it is advised that your dog have a second dose every single year.

The hard thing with the Bordetella vaccine is that it does not provide protection against all strains of the bacterium prevalent in some Kennel Cough infections, just like the human Flu vaccine. This is why, despite being currently immunised, your dog could get Kennel Cough. With this vaccine, your dog IS protected against the most contagious upper respiratory infection caused by the Bordetella bacteria, but it is not protected from the whole spectrum of them.

In the case that your dog develops Kennel Cough, your veterinarian will recommend medications in order to avoid a secondary bacterial infection and the development of more severe illnesses including decreased appetite and high temperature. After being exposed to the virus, kennel cough symptoms begin approximately five days later and continue about a week. However, it is advised not to travel with your dog for another week after that. Humans are aware that resting, eating more, and staying hydrated are necessary when they have a cold to keep it from becoming worse; your dog, however, is not.

Your dog must have a current Bordetella vaccination (together with additional vaccinations) in order to use the services of a reputable boarding and grooming establishment. At the time of check-in, the knowledgeable staff should also question every pet owner if their animals have been exhibiting any signs of kennel cough. Additionally, every building should have a bacterial disinfection protocol in place, and as the owner, you should feel comfortable asking what it is. This does not imply that your pet will never be at risk of catching kennel cough, though. Your pet is just like us and is susceptible to catching an upper respiratory illness every time you let them out in public. However, this risk is less likely to materialise if your pet care facility mandates that all animals be up-to-date on vaccinations and if all pet owners are completely truthful about their animals’ recent medical histories.


Well-known antimicrobial medications called antibiotics are used to stop bacterial infections in both people and animals.

According to research, these are the best treatments for canine kennel cough. Among the typical antibiotics used for this in animals is:

  • Enrofloxacin
  • Clavulanic acid/Amoxicillin
  • Metronidazole
  • Clindamycin

In a UK survey of randomly selected veterinary practises, it was shown that dogs given antibiotics such ampicillin/amoxicillin, trimethoprim-sulphonamide, and oxytetracycline showed a statistically significant reduction in the length of coughing (9).

Tetracycline, doxycycline, enrofloxacin, and amoxicillin/clavulanic acid were all obviously sensitive to Bordetella bronchiseptica, according to a second investigation that examined 78 distinct isolates.

Overall, 81% of the isolates showed sensitivity to sulphadiazine, 73% to trimethoprim, and 81% to ampicillin (10).

How do antibiotics work on dogs with kennel cough?

Simply put, antibiotics aid the body’s ability to eliminate the BB infection that causes kennel cough. In a more technical sense, antibiotics function by increasing the generation of hydroxyl radicals, which harm both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria and cause cell death as a result of oxidative stress (11).

But antibiotics don’t work 100% of the time…

Some kennel cough infection strains (B. bronchiseptica isolates) have plasmids that are resistant to antibiotics, which may restrict the types of treatments available for canine respiratory tract infections.

Because it can spread to Escherichia coli K12 (E. coli) and is resistant to ampicillin, tetracycline, sulphonamides, streptomycin, and mercuric chloride, plasmids can be extremely challenging to treat (12).

A veterinarian should regularly supervise the use of antibiotics, which should only be used in extreme cases and for a brief length of time (as necessary).

The problem is that frequent use of antibiotics to treat canine kennel cough can result in resistant germs, just like in humans, making them less effective over time (13).


Dogs’ bodies create corticosteroids, which are steroid hormones used to treat a variety of infections.

They function essentially as anti-inflammatory drugs by boosting the expression of several inflammatory genes that control proinflammatory transcription factors (14). They may be utterly ineffective for some infections, while they are the most effective for others.

For instance, the steroid Prednisolone is frequently prescribed to treat autoimmune diseases, inflammatory illnesses, and allergies.

It might also be beneficial in treating canine kennel cough. Prednisolone directed its activity against the heat-labile toxin (HLT) of Bordetella in a trial where mice were administered the medication orally or intraperitoneally prior to exposure to the pathogen (15).

Additionally, research on young children demonstrates that using corticosteroids during and after a phase of bronchiolitis may lower the prevalence of asthma and the ensuing bronchial wheezing (16).

This is significant since kennel cough in dogs and these respiratory ailments in humans are quite similar.

Similar results were shown in dogs given corticosteroids, who showed a considerable reduction in the amount of time they coughed for (9).

The following corticosteroids are frequently administered to pets:

  • Hydrocortisone
  • Prednisone
  • Triamcinolone (Vetalog)
  • Methylprednisolone (Depo-Medrol and Medrol)
  • Dexamethasone (Azium)
  • Betamethasone (Betasone)

Intranasal Vaccine

A drug known as a vaccination causes the body of the dog to produce antibodies, which can confer immunity against disease.

An intranasal vaccine for dogs is one that is given to them as a nasal spray.

It has been demonstrated that this sort of vaccine protects dogs against kennel cough (17).

In one trial, 30 beagle puppies who tested negative for B bronchiseptica were randomly assigned to one of three groups: unvaccinated puppies (group A), one intranasal vaccination (group B), and two intranasal vaccinations (group C). The challenge was exposure to B bronchiseptica.

Following the challenge, unvaccinated controls exhibited usual signs of infection, such as pyrexia, spontaneous or provoked coughing, nasal discharge, and congestion.

With the exception of one dog, puppies challenged 48 hours after vaccination displayed less severe clinical kennel cough symptoms, while puppies challenged 72 hours after vaccination exhibited no clinical kennel cough symptoms at all.

After receiving a nasal vaccination and subsequently being exposed to B. bronchiseptica, puppies displayed less clinical symptoms and respiratory tract lesions after two weeks.

Additionally, they exhibited much greater B. bronchiseptica antibody concentrations in serum saliva both before and after the challenge, showing that they were better able to combat the kennel cough bacteria.

A different study supported this (18). Similar outcomes were seen in healthy dogs with low B. bronchiseptica antibody levels.

Dogs exhibited much lower cough scores and excreted significantly less challenge organisms after receiving an intranasal injection of an avirulent live vaccination and then being challenged to B. bronchiseptica after 63 days.

Intramuscular Vaccination

Similar to intranasal vaccines, intramuscular vaccinations are administered to animals via a needle injection.

Studies have shown that canine intramuscular immunisation protects dogs from kennel cough (19).

After being challenged with B. bronchiseptica and receiving an injectable vaccination, puppies in one research displayed less clinical symptoms and respiratory tract lesions after two weeks.

The levels of B. bronchiseptica antibodies in their serum saliva both before and after the challenge were likewise noticeably greater.

Researchers have examined the effectiveness of a number of other intramuscular vaccines in dogs to determine how well they protect against canine kennel cough (9).

A drop in the log odds of sickness in animals that received the vaccination was linked to a lower probability of Bordetella bronchiseptica infection.

However, a canine intranasal immunisation might be more successful than an intramuscular vaccination.

In a study, intranasal and intramuscular vaccines against B. bronchiseptica were contrasted in healthy dogs with low antibodies (18).

The findings demonstrated that dogs that had their vaccinations intramuscularly did not substantially vary from the placebo group in terms of their cough scores, whereas dogs who received their vaccinations intravenously exhibited a drop in their cough scores.


Antitussives are drugs that are classified as cough suppressants.

Dogs can use antitussive cough medications, some of which may include cough suppressants, to assist manage some kennel cough symptoms.

In a 1956 study, dogs were given modest doses of ammonia in air and water vapour to induce lively coughs or cough paroxysms, with more coughing occurring at greater ammonia concentrations.

A higher threshold of ammonia treatment after antitussive medication use suggests that it helped to reduce coughing (28).

Another investigation with 10 Labrador dogs who had previously had dry cough, retching, and gagging revealed that treatment with antitussive drugs and dog cough remedies results in a full clinical recovery within two weeks of treatment (29).


A plant known as echinacea causes the immune system to be stimulated in an unspecific way (20).

Echinacea is now a well-liked treatment for colds and the flu, and it also has some potential pain-relieving properties.

It may be useful against a variety of canine respiratory disorders, including kennel cough in dogs, and is one of the more well researched and occasionally proven holistic remedies for pets.

In one study, the effects of an eight-week oral Echinacea regimen on 41 dogs with chronic upper respiratory infections were compared (21).

After 4 weeks of treatment, the severity and absence of clinical symptoms, such as nasal discharge, lymph node enlargement, dry cough, and lung sounds, were significantly reduced.

An herbal treatment including Echinacea was administered to mouse grafts in a different in-vivo investigation to examine the immune response (22).

The angiogenic (creation of new blood vessels) activity of spleen lymphocytes was boosted by echinacea, suggesting an improvement in the immune system that would aid in the defence against the kennel cough virus.

This strategy has even been researched (23). When given to 12-month-old rats, echinacea at a dose of 50 mg/kg combined with peanut butter, has demonstrated positive results. The first two weeks of Echinacea administration saw a considerable increase in circulating total white cell counts, while the final five weeks saw an increase in interleukin-2 levels.

The information above demonstrates how this can aid in the prevention of kennel cough in dogs since white blood cells, which are part of your dog’s immune system and are engaged in the defence against infectious diseases and foreign invaders, are (24).

Additionally, a molecule called interleukin-2 controls how the dog’s body’s white blood cells behave (25).

Additional research demonstrates how echinacea purpurea treatment in mice enhances immune system function by lowering the amount of bacteria in the liver and boosting lymphocyte proliferation and granulocyte activation (26).

As a type of white blood cell that may make antibodies that fight foreign substances including invasive bacteria, viruses, and toxins linked to the kennel cough virus, lymphocytes are crucial to the dog’s immune system (27).

Granulocytes are similar to lymphocytes, with the exception that they are loaded with tiny granules of enzymes that can break down bacteria.


Nedocromil, a stabiliser for wheezing, has also demonstrated excellent success in treating shortness of breath and other respiratory conditions, many of which are connected to canine kennel cough.

In one study, administering an aerosol containing about 15 mg of nedocromil sodium lengthened the time it took for the dogs to cough after being exposed to a citric acid aerosol (31).

It is thought that nedocromil sodium prevents coughing by obstructing the sensory nerve activity in the dog’s lungs.