What Is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a respiratory infection in dogs which sounds like a hacking or choking sound. The cough is usually dry but can sometimes create mucus which dogs will try to swallow. It can be caused by multiple bacteria but is generally caused by a bacterium called Bordetella bronchiseptica. The virus is highly contagious but is generally not a very serious infection. Most of the dogs gets treated without any medications or medical complications.[1]

Dogs or puppies who develop complications have either compromised immune system or underdeveloped immune system.​*​

Most dogs that become infected with Bordetella are infected with a virus at the same time. These viruses make dogs more vulnerable to the bordetella virus. These viruses are canine adenovirus, canine distemper, canine herpes virus, parainfluenza virus etc.

How Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a very contagious respiratory infection that infects dogs. It infects a dog when the dog inhale the bacteria into the respiratory tract. While respiratory tracts are protected by mucus membrane lining over them but due to following circumstances membrane becomes weak and the dog gets infected:

  • Exposure to crowded and/or poorly ventilated conditions like kennels​†​
  • Exposure to dust
  • Anxiety or stress due to travel​‡​

Dogs can inhale the virus from:

  1. Infected surfaces or items i.e water bowls or toys.
  2. Dog to Dog contact i.e noses.
  3. Virus droplets in air when dog sneezes or coughs.

What Are the Symptoms?

Following are the symptoms in dogs:

  • dry and hacking sound cough just like a choking sound.
  • nasal discharge​§​
  • sneezing
  • lethargy​¶​
  • loss of appetite
  • low grade fever​#​

If you think that your dog has following symptoms then call your vet immediately and seek guidance.

What Does Kennel Cough Sound Like?

When infected the dog coughing sounds like hacking sound and choking sound. Most of the times its a dry cough or sometimes it can be moist cough with mucus.

How to Diagnose Kennel Cough?

There is no single test to detect if the dog has kennel cough or not. If the dog has been to a place where many dogs congregated like kennel, dog parks, clinic and has following symptoms withing 7-14 days of the visit:

  • dry and hacking sound cough just like a choking sound.
  • nasal discharge​**​
  • sneezing
  • lethargy​††​
  • loss of appetite
  • low grade fever

If both of the above conditions meet then it can be concluded that your dog has kennel cough. Swab tests can tell you the exact bacterium which caused the cough but knowing the bacteria will not help the treatment of the cough.

What is Kennel Cough Treatment?

Generally, kennel cough does not require any treatment and most of the dogs gets self-treated within 7 to 14 days of contracting the virus.

For mild cases, dogs are treated by antibiotics and cough suppressants which help speed up the recovery of dogs. Some doctors may also prescribe room humidifiers and bronchodilators to assist easy breathing in dogs.​‡‡​

For serious cases in old dogs with a compromised immune system or puppies with underdeveloped immune system, kennel cough can cause pneumonia which can be dangerous for dogs and will treatment of pneumonia.

Note: During the treatment of infection please keep your dog isolated from other dogs since he can infect any dog which will come in close contact.

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?

Most dogs get treated in 7 to 14 days of contracting the infection but these dogs may still keep shedding the virus up to 2-3 three months after contracting the virus. ​§§​

How to Prevent Kennel Cough in Dogs?

There are three types of vaccines available:

  1. Injectable vaccine​¶¶​
  2. Intranasal Vaccine​##​
  3. Oral Vaccine

Although none of the vaccines provide 100% protection from virus but these vaccines provide reasonable protection. In fact many dog boardings have made it mandatory for dogs to have kennel cough vaccination administered before they are admitted into boardings.

The vaccine is generally given once a year and it is said that the intranasal way is the most effective to get your dog vaccinated, however, there are no studies to back this claim.

Can Humans Get Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a respiratory infection that only infects dogs or other animals. There are no chances of dogs passing kennel cough to humans, however, humans can get infected with Bordetella bronchiseptica. The chances of getting infected of Bordetella bronchiseptica from dog or animal is very rare and that too only when the immune system of the human is very weak.


[1] Vieson, M., Piñeyro, P., & LeRoith, T. (2012, June 26). A review of the pathology and treatment of canine respiratory infections. Retrieved May 08, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6065594/