What is Kennel Cough?

Categories: Infectious DiseasesWellness & Care

If you’re like the millions of other dog owners in the country that, board their pets, use doggie day care or visit dog parks, you run the risk of your dog catching an upper respiratory disease known as Kennel Cough (Infectious Canine Tracheobronchitis). Kennel Cough is highly contagious and is easy to prevent by keeping your dog current on the Bordetella Vaccine.



Kennel cough is spread mainly by airborne bacteria that are expelled when infected dogs cough. People can unintentionally transmit the disease through their hands, shoes or objects. Kennel cough spreads quickly in places where a number of dogs are housed in close proximity, like animal shelters, grooming parlors, boarding kennels and dog events, such as shows and competitions.

Just like similar illnesses, Kennel Cough can be caused by a variety of organisms. The most common culprits are Bordetella bronchiseptica, Canine Para influenza Virus and Canine Adenovirus.

It is important to know that not every dog exposed to the organisms that cause Kennel Cough will get sick. There are a number of factors that can lower a dog’s immunity to the disease, such as stress and overall health status.



In Mild Cases, Common Symptoms include:

  • Persistent Hacking/Gagging Cough
  • Watery Nasal Discharge

In most mild cases, dogs continue to eat and be themselves.

In Severe Cases:

  • Fever
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Pneumonia
  • Death

The majority of severe cases occur in young, unvaccinated puppies or immunocompromised animals.



Unfortunately, there is no test for Kennel cough. Diagnosis is based on medical history and a physical examination. Your vet will sometimes palpate the throat of your dog, which will make the dog cough if they are infected because their trachea is inflamed. It is important to be as honest and accurate about your dog’s vaccination history because coughing can be an indicator for a number of other diseases, such as Canine Distemper.


If you believe your dog is suffering from Kennel Cough, it is extremely important to bring your dog in for an exam. The Vet will then, look over your dog and determine how severe your pet is affected by the bacteria. He or she will make a treatment plan that can include antibiotics and in the severe cases, hospitalization for further treatment.





Proper vaccination is key to helping ensure your pet is safe from Kennel Cough. Most standard vaccines your dog will receive from a Vet clinic include the Parainfluenza and adenovirus but a separate vaccine for Bordetella bronchiseptica is required to cover all bases.  

There are 2 forms of this vaccine, an injectable and intranasal (squirted into the nostrils). You and your Vet will decide which form is best for your pet at the time of your visit.

Dogs that become infected with Kennel Cough should be isolated from healthy dogs and contaminated areas and objects disinfected with bleach. While it is possible for the disease to be transmitted to cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and humans, it is also highly uncommon.


Article was written by Krystina Boozer and was reviewed by a Veterinarian.