September 25, 2021
Symptoms of kennel cough in dogs

Symptoms of kennel cough in dogs | causes | diagnosis | Treatment

Symptoms of kennel cough in dogs vary from mild to severe depending upon the dog’s overall health, vaccination status, etc. Kennel cough in dogs is also called infectious tracheobronchitis. Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory condition of dogs caused by both viruses and bacteria. It affects the upper respiratory tract of dogs. It is characterized by the inflammation of the upper respiratory system (Trachea and bronchi) of the pet. Symptoms of kennel cough in dogs range from a mild cough to severe pneumonia. You can protect your dog from this disease with regular vaccination.

Why kennel cough in dogs is called kennel cough?

This condition is called kennel cough because your pet can get it from other infected pets in the kennel due to close proximity to each other. Kennels or grooming areas are high-risk areas for kennel cough. Kennel cough is very contagious in nature and can spread from dog to dog through close contact.

How did my dog get kennel cough?

Dogs can get kennel cough from kennels, shelters, dog parks or poorly ventilated areas. Young dogs and immunocompromised animals can develop serious forms of the disease.

Kennel cough is caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine parainfluenza virus through respiratory secretions (via cough and sneezing) from infected dogs. A dog can get this virus and bacteria through the air, direct contact with an infected dog or through contaminated things. Every dog can get kennel cough, but it is more frequently seen in young and unvaccinated dogs.

The disease can occur throughout the year, but it is more common in summer months. High-density facilities with poor ventilation like boarding kennels, animal shelters, pet shops, veterinary hospitals are breeding ground for kennel cough. The incubation period of the disease usually ranges from 3–10 days. Most of these infections are mild and self-limiting.

Symptoms of kennel cough in dogs

what are symptoms of kennel cough in dogs?

your dog may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • On and off dry cough
  • Gagging
  • Loss of appetite
  • Honking cough sound.
  • Lethargy
  • Retching
  • Vomiting in a few cases
  • Mild Nasal discharge
  • Fever
  • The cough may be elicited by tracheal palpation
  • The cough may be more frequent during exercise, excitement
  • Pressure from the collar can cause cough

How is kennel cough diagnosed in dogs?

Your veterinarian will follow some common steps to reach at conclusion:

  • Thorough history regarding vaccination, close contact with other dogs, a recent visit to groomer, shelter etc.
  • Physical exam to listen to lungs and heart sounds
  • The complete blood count (CBC) may show normal or stress response with high neutrophils, low lymphocytes or high WBC count in the severe form of the disease.
  • X-rays may show complicating bronchopneumonia in complicated cases.
  • Nasal swab culture may help in identifying the organism.
  • Advanced tests like virus isolation are also available at referral laboratories.
kennel cough infographic

What is treatment for kennel cough in dogs?

  • The treatment plan varies from pet to pet. In the milder form of the kennel cough, generally, no treatment is recommended. Kennel cough is a self-curing disease in the majority of cases. you are advised keeping your infected dogs isolated from other dogs.
  • An outpatient treatment is preferred in non-complicated cases to avoid transmission to other in-clinic animals. 
  • In severe form of the disease, your veterinarian may prescribe cough suppressants and antibiotics in some cases or can hospitalize your pet on iv fluid and supportive medications.
  • Commonly used antibiotics are Doxycycline or Amoxicillin/clavulanate for 14 days.

How to prevent kennel cough in dogs?

  • Routine dog vaccination is recommended.
  • In dogs with a high risk of exposure, kennel cough vaccination is also recommended. But it is not always 100 % protective. 
  • The vaccine can definitely reduce the intensity of the infection in dogs. 
  • Both injectable and intranasal kennel cough vaccines are available in the market. Both vaccines have pros and cons. Ask your veterinarian, which vaccine is best for your pet.
  • Immunity of these vaccines lasts for one year.

How long does it take for a dog to recover from kennel cough?

  • In most cases, the signs of kennel cough gradually go away in 2-3 weeks.
  • The Signs may stay longer in young puppies, elderly dogs and other immunocompromised animals, Your pet may take 4-6 weeks to fully recover.
  • Some pets may remain infected for long periods of time even after the symptoms are gone.
Symptoms of kennel cough in dogs

When to see a vet for kennel cough?

If you suspect that your pet has kennel cough. Then isolate the pet from other pets and consult your veterinarian.

Kennel cough’s symptoms are sometimes confused with other similar types of diseases like,

  • Tracheal collapse, especially in small breeds
  • Allergic bronchitis
  • Congestive heart failure, especially in older dogs
  • Other types of pneumonia

Some important questions on kennel cough:

Is kennel cough serious?

Most of the kennel cough infections are mild and self-limiting. But in some cases, infection can settle in lower respiratory tract and can cause pneumonia

How do you get rid of kennel cough in dogs?

In most cases, the signs of kennel cough gradually go away in 2-3 weeks without any treatment. but if it persists or get worse, then consult your veterinarian for diagnostic work.

What can I give my dog for kennel cough over the counter?

Over the counter medications are not recommended in pets. If symptoms of kennel cough are severe, then consult your veterinarian.

How long is kennel cough contagious?

A kennel cough infected dog is considered contagious for 2-3 weeks. But in immunocompromised pets, infection can last longer than usual.

Can kennel cough go away on its own?

The single line answer is yes. But in some cases, you need veterinarian consultation if it lasts longer than usual.

Some other important articles:

IMHA in Dogs

Diabetes in Dogs

Cushing’s disease in Dogs

Pyometra in Dogs

Pancreatitis in Dogs

This information is NOT intended as a substitute for veterinary consultation for any of your pet’s diseases. Always consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment plan.


  • Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline by Larry P. Tilley, Francis W. K. Smith
  • Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice by Robert G. Sherding and Stephen J. Birchard
  • Emergency Procedures for the Small Animal Veterinarian by Signe J. Plunkett
  • Merck Veterinary Manual by Susan Aiello
  • 100 Top Consultations in Small Animal General Practice by Peter Hill, Sheena Warman, Geoff Shawcross
  • Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook by Donald C. Plumb
  • Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Manual, 3rd Edition by Karol A. Mathews

Dr Gurpal Chahal, DVM

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

View all posts by Dr Gurpal Chahal, DVM →

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