Kennel Cough - Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Kennel Cough - Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Author WDF Staff


Kennel cough is one of the things that new dog owners often worry about. Your dog might start making sounds that can seem pretty terrifying, but how dangerous is kennel cough? Is it preventable? Are there any effective treatments in place?

We will explore this canine disease and answer all common questions worried dog owners might have. So let’s dig in.

What is kennel cough?

The easiest way to understand what kennel cough is is to describe it as an infectious disease that affects a dog’s respiratory systems. It is also called Bordetella after the most common cause; the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica.

This bacteria is not the only cause of kennel cough, and it is usually connected with other viruses that make your dog susceptible to the Bordetella. These viruses include:

  • Canine herpes virus
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Canine adenovirus
  • Canine distemper virus
  • Canine reovirus

How dangerous is this disease?

Luckily for our dogs (and us), kennel cough is not that serious or harmful for our beloved pets. Dogs can catch this disease from inhaling contaminated air filled with bacteria in poorly ventilated places filled with dogs. Before your puppy gets all the necessary vaccines, try avoiding too crowded places like doggy daycares or playing with other dogs in unventilated areas.

Kennel cough affects certain parts of your dog, and those parts are the larynx and trachea. The larynx is also called the voice box, and it is a collection of cartilage flaps that protect the windpipe (trachea) when the dog is eating or drinking. The trachea is the tube that connects the dog’s throat to their lungs.

If these two parts get affected by the kennel cough, it can sound pretty dangerous, but in this case, it only sounds more dangerous than it actually is.

puppies in small place

What are the symptoms we should be aware of?

Symptoms of kennel cough can sometimes be mistaken for other diseases that have similar ways of manifestation. Those diseases include the canine influenza virus, distemper, collapsed trachea, asthma, bronchitis, and heart disease. It would be best to pay your vet a visit if you start noticing some of the following symptoms:

  • Constant cough
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Eye discharge

With other diseases, your dog will most likely lose their appetite and generally exhibit low-energy behavior and lethargy. When it comes to kennel cough, dogs usually don’t have a lower appetite or low energy, only the symptoms mentioned earlier.

How long does kennel cough last?

Once again, there is good news because mild kennel cough will most likely go away within a week or two. Your vet will most likely tell you to keep your dog rested and that the cough will soon go away. If it is a “stronger” kennel cough infection, your vet might suggest some other forms of treatment.

How to treat kennel cough?

Kennel cough is not that serious, and most cases will go away in no time. However, there are some treatments that your vet might prescribe if they notice that your dog has more significant respiratory issues and more severe symptoms. Some treatments include:

  • Antibiotics - Sometimes, vets will suggest antibiotics that will target Bordetella bacteria that caused the cough in the first place.
  • Cough medication - Vets might also prescribe cough medication that will help with the symptoms.
  • Humidity - This is not actually a treatment, but keeping a dog in a humidified room will ease their symptoms.
  • Dog harness - When walking your dog, use a harness instead of a collar. It will ease the affected windpipe pressure, especially if your dog pulls hard on the leash.


There is a good reason for the expression “Better safe than sorry,” In this case, the prevention is easily accessible to all dog owners. If you are worried about your dog getting infected by kennel cough, think about getting your dog vaccinated.

The vaccine is usually given in two stages that are about three weeks apart. After that, a booster vaccine is given every 6 - 12 months. Some places that get many dogs in one place, like doggy daycares, training centers, conformation, or dog sports events, require proof of that vaccine.

However, keep in mind that the vaccine is not a guarantee that your dog will never catch kennel cough. Vaccines target one specific cause, and this disease can be caused by viruses we mentioned earlier. The vaccine will not prevent other ways of catching this disease; it will only prevent the most common cause - the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica.

Now you know what kennel cough is and how serious it can be, so make sure you keep your puppy safe and keep their vaccines up to date.

World Dog Finder team