Kennel cough, a major risk for dogs

Kennel cough

A dry, hoarse cough with attempts to cough up and vomit often points to kennel cough in dogs. Highly contagious among groups, this illness demands special attention in puppies, elderly, or weakened dogs. Why? Their immune system can’t cope with the infectious onslaught.

Learn more about how kennel cough spreads and treatments to save your dog if it catches it.

How does kennel cough spread?

Contamination kennel coughKennel cough (or tracheobronchitis) is a super-contagious infectious disease. Several culprits—viruses and bacteria—invade respiratory tracts and multiply:

  • Bacteria include Bordetella bronchiseptica, Mycoplasma, and Pasteurelles;
  • Viruses such as canine Parainfluenza, canine adenovirus, and canine coronavirus.

Dogs catch it from direct contact with their peers (nose-to-nose), through the air when a fellow canine sneezes, or by touching contaminated surfaces. So, if your furry friend often mingles with others—be it dog schools, hunting, exhibits, group walks—it’s at a higher risk.

Kennel cough symptoms

Symptoms usually show up a week after exposure. And they’re quite telling:

  • Symptoms of kennel coughA strong, dry, and raspy cough;
  • Your dog might try to clear its throat or even vomit;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Feeling super tired;
  • Watery eyes and a runny nose.

To prevent things from escalating to pneumonia, a visit to the vet is essential.

Good to know: Some dogs carry and spread it without showing symptoms for weeks.

Treating kennel cough


Depending on how far the disease has progressed, a vet might conduct:

  • Blood tests;
  • Chest X-rays;
  • Test against culprit virus and bacteria to narrow down the treatment to target.

Based on their findings, they’ll prescribe:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs;
  • Cough suppressants;
  • Antibiotics;
  • Special food for recovering dogs;
  • Intensive care in severe cases (respiratory complications).

Make sure your pup gets ample rest and a comfy sleeping spot away from moisture.


Dogs in a kennelVaccinating your dog is top-tier protection against kennel cough. You’ve got three options:

  • Injecting puppies between 4-6 weeks and then a second shot three weeks later. They’ll need annual booster shots;
  • Intra-nasal spray for puppies as young as three weeks. One shot does the trick with yearly boosters;
  • If boarding your dog suddenly becomes a need, an intra-nasal vaccine 72 hours before check-in works wonders.

Good to know: Vaccines do an amazing job, but they aren’t 100% effective. They only target specific kennel cough viruses and bacteria.

Smart Tips

If you have a cat, isolate your dog. Why? Cats are vulnerable to kennel cough too.

Images: 123RF: Svetlna Valuiskaya, CC BY 2.0: Brett McBain; Pixabay: Светлана Бердник; shutterstock: Dhanoo Surasarang

Written by Lydie Dronet | With over 20 years in the field of animal care, Lydie shares her paws-on expertise and experience. Other topics she loves delving into are nutrition and the medicinal uses of plants.