Kennel Cough- Causes and treatment

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If your dog is snorting or coughing or constantly making choking noises like they are suffocating on something, that may be a case of kennel cough. Although, another possibility is canine infectious tracheobronchitis. Kennel cough sounds terrible, but most of the time, it is not such a serious condition. Kennel cough in most dogs’ cures without treatment.

Overview of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, like a human cough or cold, is caused by a bacteria or virus. Only, kennel cough has many candidates that may cause it. One of those candidates is a bacterium called Bordetella bronchi-septic m. That is from where Kennel cough’s name Bordetella comes. Most dogs that are infected with Bordetella become prone to a virus infection at the same time. Some viruses are known to make dogs more likely to contracting Bordetella infection. Those viruses are-canine adenovirus, canine distemper virus, parainfluenza virus, canine herpes virus, and canine reovirus.

Dogs get kennel cough when they inhale those bacteria or virus particles, and they make their way into the respiratory tract of the dog. The respiratory tract is normally lined with a coating of mucus, which serves the function of trapping such infectious particles but, due to several factors, this protective layer can weaken making the dogs prone to kennel cough infection. Kennel cough results in inflammation of the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe), hence the coughing and rough voice. These factors can be-

Exposure to poorly ventilated conditions or crowded places, such as many kennels and shelters

Unusually cold temperatures

Exposure to some (cigarettes) or dust

Travel-induced stress or some other stressor


Dogs with a general case of kennel cough look healthy and continue to normally eat, drink, and play. They may experience lethargy and slight fever, but the lungs will usually sound normal. Other dogs may experience nasal discharge and sneeze along with a persistent cough; sometimes dry and hacking, other times soft and wet. Situations like exercise or over-excitement or even changes in temperature or humidity can start the coughing. Even the accessories like a collar can induce coughing as it can put pressure on the trachea.

Kennel cough infection

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

The classic symptom of kennel cough is a persistent, harsh cough that sounds like a goose honk. It is different from a cough-like sound made by some dogs or snorting. The latter condition is called reverse sneezing. It is normal in certain dog breeds that are born with a small nose. It usually only means that there is a slight irritation in the throat or a postnasal drip.

Some dogs with kennel cough may depict some signs of illness like sneezing, a runny nose, or watery eyes. These are human common cold kind symptoms.

Dog with kennel cough usually does not lose their appetite or experience a drop in energy level.

Treatment of Kennel Cough

Most dogs recover from kennel cough without treatment. Medications help to speed the recovery or minimize symptoms. The meds prescribed during infection include antibiotics that target Bordetella bacteria and some cough medicines.

Keeping the infected dog in a well-humidified area is found helpful by the owners. Use a harness instead of a collar to minimize the coughing.

Most dogs with kennel cough show complete recovery within three weeks. Although, older dogs can take up to six weeks, and so can those with other medical conditions. If the kennel cough infection is serious and prolongs, it can lead to pneumonia. Therefore, if you do not see any improvement in the expected amount of time, follow up with your veterinarian as something may be wrong. The same goes for the symptoms of rapid breathing, not eating, or restlessness. If the dog shows such symptoms, contact your vet right away, as these could be the early signs of more serious conditions.


Kennel cough is a contagious infection. So, a vaccine is the best prevention against this condition. The vaccine for kennel cough can be given in three forms: 1. via injection, 2. one that is given as a nasal mist, and 3. Oral medicine: given through mouth. Although these vaccines are the best bet, they still do not guarantee full-proof protection against kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis. The reason being so many different kinds of bacteria and viruses can cause these infections. A point to note is that vaccine is a preventive method, and it can not cure active infections.

The intranasal and oral kennel cough vaccinations are sometimes recommended every six months for dogs who are prone to kennel cough, but for general cases, it is given to dogs once a year. Oral and intranasal vaccines provide better and quicker protection against kennel cough than the injected product.

Can Humans Get Kennel Cough?

It is unlikely for a human to contract kennel cough, but it is not impossible. The possibility is rare, but humans that are immunocompromised can contract Bordetella bronchi-septica. You must keep away a sick puppy from an immunocompromised person. On the other hand, a cat can contract this infection from dogs very easily. Many studies support this statement. Cats can very easily get respiratory infections from other animals. So if you have a cat and a dog as a pet, you must keep them apart if one of them gets sick.

For everyone’s safety, the smart thing to do when a dog gets kennel cough is to separate it from other dogs, other pets, and to some extent from yourself because viruses can work their magic on anyone.

Wendy Hendriks

Wendy Hendriks

This is Wendy Hendriks From iClean Internationals Ltd. Life-long learner, committed to working hard at self directed learning environment.

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