Kennel Cough - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Training, last updated 08th, Aug 2014, Neha Manchanda

Do you have a dog who is continuously coughing or sounding as if he is choking on something?? Then your pooch might be suffering from Kennel Cough or canine infectious tracheobronchitis. 


What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a term used to describe a viral and bacterial infection that causes inflammation in the upper respiratory function i.e. trachea / windpipe and the voice box / larynx. Kennel Cough is a form of bronchitis and is similar to cold in humans. Just like humans can catch cold due to different reasons, kennel cough too can be caused due to multiple reasons. One of the most common reasons of kennel cough is a bacterium called Bordettella Bronchiseptica.

Kennel cough is an airborne disease and a highly contagious one. Young or new born puppies can suffer from the most severe complications of this disease as they have an underdeveloped immune system. Old dogs and pregnant dogs are also highly susceptible to kennel cough as they have lower immunity to infections.


Commonly found in puppy mills, boarding facilities and shelters, there are a lot of factors that can give rise to kennel cough. A few have been iterated below:

  • Exposure to a kennel where the ventilation system is poor. Poorly ventilated rooms are a breeding ground for bordettella and canine parainfluenza virus. 
  • Exposure to places where the temperatures are extremely low.
  • High exposure to dust
  • Exposure / playing with dogs already infected with kennel cough.


The incubation period for the virus and bacteria is 3 - 4 days. One of the most classic symptoms of a Kennel Cough is a dry hacking cough. A few other symptoms are:

  • Continuous retching, as if something is stuck in the throat
  • Watery nasal discharge
  • Some dogs may show signs of fever. However, fever is only in severe cases.
  • You dog may become extremely lethargic or may not have a normal appetite.


If you think that your dog is suffering from kennel cough or is showing symptoms of the same, it is advised that you take your dog to a veterinary immediately and have a thorough checkup done. A veterinary will require a complete history of the dog especially if the dog has been exposed to other dogs and the frequency for the same. A complete blood profile including a chemical blood profile will have to be conducted along with a RBC and WBC count to determine the extent of the infection. Culture tests and urinalysis will also have to be conducted.

Treatment of Kennel Cough:

As soon as the infection has been diagnosed and the symptoms are not too severe, the vet may advise against giving antibiotics and allow the dog to go through the course of the disease. An antiinflammatory agent / cough syrup may be give to your dog to make the dog a little comfortable and reduce the cough.

In case the dog is running high fever, or is showing signs of decreased appetite or severe respiratory troubles, antibiotics may be prescribed by the vet. One then has to be careful as fever and respiratory problems may lead to pneumonia.

Prevention & Management

In order to prevent kennel cough it is very important that your dogs are regularly vaccinated for canine adenovirus, distemper, parainfluenza virus and bordetella.

  • Immediately isolate your dog from other dogs to avoid the spreading of the infection.
  • Use a vaporizer to provide relief to the cough.
  • Avoid exposing your strong to strong fumes or smoke as it may increase the irritability of the nasal passage.

If your dog walks on a collar and pulls a lot, it will be advised to use a harness so that there is no pressure on the throat especially during the infection. Ensure that your dog is kept in a well ventilated room and is not exposed to agents / things that might aggravate the infection. It is important to note that though puppy mills / shelters / boarding facilities may be incubators to the respiratory infection, they should not be blamed at all times for the spread. Many a times, a dog may show symptoms of cough and with an incubation period of 3 - 4 days, pet parents might miss the signs.





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