October 3, 2023
Kennel cough is a respiratory illness that can affect dogs of all breeds and ages, and can be potentially dangerous if left untreated. In this article, we discuss the symptoms, types, and possible treatment options available to help pet owners better manage their dog's health.


Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that affects dogs of all breeds and ages. Just like humans, dogs are prone to catching various viruses and bacteria that cause respiratory infections. However, kennel cough can be potentially dangerous, especially for puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with weaker immune systems. Therefore, it’s important for pet owners to recognize the symptoms of kennel cough and seek veterinary care if they suspect their dog is affected.

In this article, we will discuss what kennel cough is, its symptoms, types, and how to identify and treat it. We hope this will help pet owners better understand kennel cough and how they can keep their furry friends healthy.

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory illness that affects a dog’s trachea and bronchi. It is usually caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria, such as Bordetella bronchiseptica, canine parainfluenza virus, and canine adenovirus. These pathogens are easily transmitted through the air when an infected dog coughs, sneezes, or even barks, which is why kennel cough is common in places where dogs are in close contact with each other, such as kennels, dog parks, and shelters.

Once the virus or bacteria enters a dog’s respiratory system, it leads to inflammation and irritation of the lining of the trachea and bronchi, resulting in the characteristic cough. Kennel cough can range from mild to severe, depending on the dog’s age, immune system, and overall health. In some cases, kennel cough can progress to pneumonia if left untreated.

The Symptoms of Kennel Cough

The most common symptom of kennel cough is a persistent, hacking cough, which often sounds like the dog is trying to clear their throat. The cough may be dry, honking, or accompanied by gagging or retching. Other symptoms of kennel cough include:

Sneezing and Nasal Discharge

Dogs with kennel cough may also show signs of sneezing, runny nose, and nasal discharge. The discharge may be clear or thick and yellowish-green, which can indicate a bacterial infection.

Fever and Lethargy

Fever and lethargy are also common symptoms of kennel cough. Dogs may have a high temperature, reduced appetite, and seem less active than usual.

Difficulty Breathing

In severe cases, kennel cough can lead to breathing difficulties, such as rapid or shallow breathing, wheezing, or panting. This is usually a sign that the infection has spread to the lungs, and the dog needs immediate medical attention.

It’s worth noting that not all dogs show the same symptoms of kennel cough, and some may only exhibit mild signs of respiratory distress. Additionally, dogs with weaker immune systems and underlying health conditions are more prone to develop severe symptoms.

Types of Kennel Cough

There are several types of kennel cough, with different causes and symptoms. Here are the most common types of kennel cough:


Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacteria that’s often associated with kennel cough. It can cause a persistent cough, nasal discharge, and fever. Bordetella can be contracted through direct contact with infected dogs or contaminated objects, such as water bowls or toys.

Canine Parainfluenza

Canine parainfluenza virus is a respiratory virus that can also cause kennel cough. It leads to symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge. This virus is highly contagious and can spread quickly in places where dogs congregate.

Canine Influenza

Canine influenza virus is another respiratory virus that can cause kennel cough. It is less common than other types of kennel cough but can lead to severe symptoms. In addition to coughing and sneezing, dogs with canine influenza may also develop a high fever, loss of appetite, and breathing difficulties.

How to Identify Kennel Cough

If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, it’s crucial to take them to the veterinarian for a diagnosis. While the symptoms of kennel cough may resemble that of other respiratory infections, such as allergies or asthma, a vet can perform a physical examination and recommend diagnostic tests, such as bloodwork, X-rays, or a tracheal wash.

Another way to identify kennel cough is to monitor your dog’s behavior and look out for any changes in their health. If your dog has recently been in contact with other dogs or visited a kennel or boarding facility, they may be at risk of contracting kennel cough. Watch for signs of coughing, sneezing, and lethargy, and contact your vet if these symptoms persist or worsen.

Preventing and Treating Kennel Cough

The best way to prevent kennel cough is to vaccinate your dog regularly. The kennel cough vaccine is not mandatory, but it’s recommended for dogs that are frequently exposed to other dogs, such as those who visit dog parks or attend daycare or boarding facilities. In addition to vaccination, pet owners can take other preventative measures, such as avoiding overcrowded areas, washing their hands after handling other dogs, and keeping their dogs away from sick dogs.

If your dog does contract kennel cough, treatment usually involves medication and rest. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics if there is a bacterial infection or cough suppressants to relieve the coughing. It’s essential to follow your vet’s instructions carefully and ensure your dog gets plenty of rest and stays hydrated.


Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can affect dogs of all breeds and ages. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms and take your dog to the veterinarian if you suspect they may have kennel cough. By following preventative measures and getting prompt veterinary care, you can help your furry friend recover quickly and avoid potential complications.

Remember, prevention is the best cure, so make sure to keep up with your dog’s vaccinations and avoid exposing them to potentially infected dogs. With proper care and attention, your dog can lead a healthy and happy life.

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