Kennel Cough: Overview of Kennel Cough in Dogs

Danson mwangi mathenge
6 min readNov 19, 2020

Kennel cough is a contagious respiratory disease that affects dogs. This condition is also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis.

Often dogs with kennel cough present with a persistent nagging cough and may appear lethargic.

Furthermore, dogs that live in crowded areas or interact with many dogs are more prone to this illness. Thus watch out who your dog hangs out with.

That said, in this article, you will learn more about this health condition in dogs from the symptoms to the preventative measures you can take.

Let’s dive in..

Photo by Florencia Potter on Unsplash

What Is Kennel Cough In Dogs?

Kennel cough is an upper respiratory disease that is caused by a bacterium known as Bordetella bronchiseptica. A dog with this disease will have an inflamed windpipe and larynx.

Often you will find other sources naming this disease after this Bordetella bacterium.

Besides that, other bacteria and viruses can cause kennel cough. Mycoplasma spp is such a bacterium that can also cause this illness.

Other viruses that predispose dogs to this illness include canine adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus, and canine reovirus.

Kennel Cough Sound: What Is The Sound Of Kennel Cough?

As one of the symptoms, the dog produces a persistent forceful cough. The dogs with such a cough appear as if they are expelling something out of their throat. Furthermore, this hacking cough can turn out to be hoarse and unproductive.

However, don’t confuse this kennel cough sound with reverse sneezing. Reverse sneezing is often present in puppies or certain breeds of dogs, and it’s never a bother.

What Are the Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Dogs

Here are some of the symptoms to look out for in a dog suffering from kennel cough.

A Dry Cough

This cough is often persistent and often makes the dog dull.

Discharge from the Eyes and Nose

You will notice that your dog has watery eyes. You can also find some mucous on its nose.


A dog suffering from kennel cough is often inactive and often has decreased energy levels. Such a dog will lose interest in playing or eating.


Your dog may present with high fevers. The body defence mechanism raises the temperature to fight the invading organism.

Factors That Predispose a Dog to Kennel Cough

Here are some of the factors that will predispose a dog to this respiratory condition.

  • Exposure to crowded places. For example animal shelters or kennels
  • Cold temperatures in the kennel
  • Inhaling dust or cigarette smoke

How Is Kennel Cough Spread?

Kennel Cough Can Be Spread Through the Air

Kennel cough is an airborne disease. For example, when an infected dog coughs, the droplets containing the Bordetella bacterium will fly up into the air.

These droplets stay in the air till the moment they will find a host. In this case, the host is a dog.

If the host’s immune system is strong, there will be no symptoms, and often it will resolve without you noticing.

However, for a dog with a compromised immune system, the symptoms can start manifesting after the second day.

Spread through Contaminated Objects

Dogs that have this bacterium can spread this disease to other dogs through their toys or feeding bowls. If not cleaned and disinfected, the Bordetella bacteria stays in the surfaces for 48 hours.

Contact with an Infected Dog

A dog can acquire the Kennel cough by touching the nose of an infected dog. So be keen on how your dog interacts with other dogs.

Point to note: Kennel cough often occurs as an outbreak. You will often find such outbreaks in animal shelters or dog boarding facilities.

beagle with kennel cough
Photo by Sarah W on Unsplash

Kennel Cough Incubation Period

Before going deeper, what is the incubation period? An incubation period is the time elapsed or period from the initial infection to the onset of signs and symptoms of a disease.

The incubation period of kennel cough is between 2–14 days. Consequently, during this period, the dog won’t present any signs and symptoms. However, the dog can still spread this disease to other dogs.

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last In Dogs?

Often this disease resolves by itself and can clear within 3 weeks from the initial onset of symptoms. However, the condition can last for over 6 weeks for puppies, old dogs, or dogs with a weak immune system.

How Is Kennel Cough In Dog Treated?

Often this disease won’t require the intervention of a veterinary.

Home remedies often work for dogs with a tough immunity system. However, if you are concerned about your dog’s health, consult your veterinarian. The reason being some unresolved cases of Kennel cough evolve to become severe pneumonia.

Notify your vet when your dog develops a worsening persistent cough.

However, I would prefer the vet to give you a visit instead of you doing it. The reason being, visiting the vet’s clinic with your sick canine may expose other dogs to this disease.

Depending on the severity and test done, a vet will prescribe appropriate medication necessary for your dog.

Note the medication will be given depending on the causative agent. Remember, kennel cough can be caused by either a virus or bacteria.

Also, don’t borrow antibiotics from your neighbour who had a dog presenting with the same symptoms. It is wrong.

Self-treating your dog will pose more dangers than benefits.

Key point. Let your dog take medication after a run of tests from a qualified veterinarian.

Fact: It is estimated that every dog will suffer from this disease in its lifetime.

Is There A Kennel Cough Vaccine?

Yes. The most common vaccine used is called Bordetella bacterium vaccine. Vets use this Bordetella vaccine since this bacterium is the most prevalent cause of kennel cough in dogs.

This vaccine is given to puppies from the age of 3 weeks in two doses. The second booster is administered after 3–4 weeks. Additionally, this shot gives the dog 12 months of protection.

However, after receiving this shot or vaccine, your dog will not be entirely immune to kennel cough. Remember this disease can be caused by a variety of bacteria or viruses.

For example, the Bordetella vaccine won’t offer help in the case the disease is viral.

Note: a dog suffering from kennel cough shouldn’t be vaccinated as it will be worthless.

A poodle/kennel cough in dogs
Photo by Andrew Spencer on Unsplash

Preventing Kennel Cough in Dogs

There are various measures you can take to stop your dog from contracting this disease.

  • Let your dog live in a humid area
  • Avoid places overcrowded with dogs
  • Vaccinate your dog
  • Ensure your dog lives in a hygienic place

Can Kennel Cough Be Transmitted To Humans?

No, Kennel cough in dogs cannot be transmitted to humans. There is little evidence showing that humans are in danger of acquiring kennel cough from dogs.

However, don’t let babies, the elderly or people with severe underlying conditions to come into contact with a dog suffering from kennel cough.

Final Thought

Kennel cough will make your dog’s life quality miserable. Though not life-threatening, visit your vet so that you can get advice on how to make your dog comfortable during such a stressing period.

Let me hear from you has your dog ever suffered from kennel cough? How did you cope up with it?