Kennel Cough

What Is Kennel Cough?

Sometimes referred to as infectious canine Tracheobronchitis, or Bordetella, Kennel cough is a super contagious illness most common in dogs. Dogs aren’t the only ones that can be affected by the bacteria, but they present more cases than other groups because of their likelihood for socialization.

Kennel cough comes from the Bordetella bacterium. This bacteria is airborne and is transmitted from dog to dog by way of inhalation. A dog will most often contract the Bordetella bacteria only after another virus has compromised their immune system. After a virus has made its place, the Bordetella bacteria are free to jump on those compromised cells and start a whole bout of trouble.

The Bordetella bacteria is often accompanied by a virus such as parainfluenza, adenovirus, parvovirus, or distemper.

If you’re not familiar with these viruses, they are the core vaccines that your dog gets as soon as they are old enough. These are the required vaccines due to their dangerous and fatal potential outcomes.

The Bordetella bacteria jump onto an already immunocompromised animal’s respiratory system.

Dogs will be more vulnerable to Kennel cough if they:

  • Are older dogs with a weakened immune system
  • Are young pups with an underdeveloped immune system
  • Have a virus
  • Stressed from travel
  • Are left in cold temperatures for too long
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How Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough?

Bordetella, the kennel cough bacteria, is airborne, it by: is transmitted by:

  • Droplets in the air – sneezes & coughs
  • Direct contact – kisses
  • Sharing toys
  • Contaminated water & food bowls
Kennel Cough Spread

How Does Kennel Cough Spread??

Bordetella transmission moves quickly and loves places with a lot of potential hosts to infect. Its name may make you think that it is only possible for pound puppies to acquire the illness, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Any dog can get kennel cough.

Bordetella loves environments that are:

  • Warm
  • Poorly ventilated
  • Lack of air circulation
  • Crowded

Since Bordetella likes these types of surroundings, kennel cough outbreaks occur mostly in places like:

  • animal shelters
  • grooming facilities
  • boarding facilities
  • doggy daycares
  • dog parks
  • and anyplace else, they are around several other dogs at once.

This is why it is grossly named Kennel cough. Though sanitary conditions are ideal for all animals’ health and wellness, there is no amount of sanitation that can guarantee the prevention of a Kennel Cough outbreak.

Kennel cough spreads through the air, so sanitation only goes so far. If your dog happens to get it, just realise it could happen to anyone.

Kennel cough in puppies

It’s especially important to monitor your puppies if they have contracted a cough. Puppies and small dogs are much more vulnerable to respiratory conditions, and should be brought in to be checked out if they are displaying irregular behaviour. Although it is rare, in some cases kennel cough and other respiratory conditions can cause permanent damage to the trachea.

Is Kennel Cough Contagious?

It sure is!

Kennel cough is so contagious, at the first sign of symptoms in a dog kennel or boarding facility will be forced to close. Most times, all dogs who frequent the boarding facility will be required to stay out for at least 14 days. Usually, that is the period in which the facility needs to remain closed.

Bordetella bacteria is the real contagion that is responsible for several upper respiratory infections in dogs, all of which are incredibly contagious.

How Long is Kennel Cough Contagious to Other Dogs?

During the 2-14 days of possible incubation, dogs are incredibly contagious. It’s easy to see how kennel cough can infect several animals before it is even apparent to the supervisors of the facility or the pet owner.

Vets recommend keeping a dog who has had kennel cough out of facilities like doggy daycares, dog parks, and shelters for at least a week after all symptoms have subsided.

If your dog has had kennel cough recently, it’s important to isolate them. It’s good to give them regular exercise still, but they shouldn’t be socializing or around other animals.

What Is The Incubation Period For Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough does take a few days to show itself, though word travels fast when kennel cough is involved. Boarding facilities are usually on top of this because Bordetella is such a well known and frequent visitor, especially in the colder months. Your boarding facility might likely call you, informing you of their closing due to kennel cough, before you even see symptoms manifest.

The incubation period for Kennel cough is 2-14 days, but if your dog coughs persistently for even one day, don’t put off the conversation with your vet. Sooner is always better than later when it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of an illness.

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?

As pet owners, we never like seeing our cute little doggy with a runny nose, hacking up a lung. It can be nerve-racking and worrisome. However, in most cases, kennel cough clears up with minimal medical intervention in about three weeks.

Using safe home remedies can be useful in treating a mild case of kennel cough. Use of a humidifier in the isolated room with your dog, healthy nutrition, hydration and lots of rest can cure your dog within weeks.

How Serious/Dangerous Is Kennel Cough?

The severity and danger of kennel cough can vary based on the initial health of the dog, age and if they are immunocompromised.

The Bordetella bacteria like to hang with nasty viruses. Suppose your dog is already suffering from a virus or has not been vaccinated. In that case, a veterinarian will advise you not to board them or have them around other dogs, ever!

Puppies are not only underdeveloped, but they also may not have had all of their core vaccines. Puppies typically get all of their required vaccines between 6 and 18 weeks. Vaccine schedules can vary a little, but the point is, don’t board your puppy or take them around other random dogs before they have had all of their core vaccines. They are very sensitive at this age, so don’t risk it.

Most boarding facilities will require the optional bordetella vaccine even to let you through the door.

Older dogs are more susceptible than healthy dogs due to a weakened immune system that comes with age. The cool part is, your old, grey pup probably doesn’t want to be boarded and is capable of being home while you’re at work. A friend will be more than willing to watch the sweet lazy baby when you decide to go on a tropical vacation.

Can Dogs Die From Kennel Cough?

In uncommon and severe cases, yes.

In most cases, the infection will clear up in a few weeks, but sometimes it can progress to the point of no return. The mortality rate due to respiratory diseases was reported at 1.2% between 1994 and 2014.

Immunocompromised dogs and puppies with underdeveloped immune systems are more vulnerable to Kennel cough. A bacterial invasion in the lungs can lead to Pneumonia and, sometimes can be fatal if left untreated for long.

Since the Bordetella bacteria causing Kennel Cough grabs onto one of its virus buddies to bring symptoms to fruition, things can escalate quickly.

How Common Is Kennel Cough?

Veterinarians are all too familiar with kennel cough, as Bordetella is responsible for several upper respiratory infections in dogs. Boarding facilities, kennels and other places with a concentration of dogs can usually count on a bordetella outbreak annually.

Like with humans and the common cold, strep throat or bronchitis, kennel cough rears its ugly head seasonally, just as the colder months begin to hit. Once one dog has kennel cough, it’s safe to say others do as well.

A common misconception is that the kennel may have been neglectful in their sanitation or lackadaisical in their attention to symptoms, but that is hardly ever the case. Airborne bacteria like Bordetella can sneak into your dog’s respiratory system even in the most sanitary environments.

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Has Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough often has several telltale signs and symptoms that something is not right with your dog. More severe signs, symptoms like fever, loss of appetite, lethargy or a gagging, uncontrollable cough need to be addressed and made known to your veterinarian.

The symptoms of kennel cough are very similar to those of human bronchitis or a bad cold; the cough is the most noticeable.

  • Persistent cough
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Irritated eyes with gooey discharge
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

Persistent cough

The number one and most universal symptom of Canine Tracheobronchitis or kennel cough is a persistent, annoying cough. As the symptoms worsen, the dogs may cough up foamy white phlegm.

Runny nose and eyes

Referred to as Conjunctivitis, or pink eye to us humans. In dogs, it comes with gooey runny green slime.

Nasal secretions

Runny noses can range from a watery, clear liquid to a thick yellow discharge.

Difficulty breathing

Between the inflamed larynx and the stuffy nose, there’s bound to be some difficulty breathing. Keep a close eye on your furry friend.


A dog’s body temperature runs higher than a human’s anyway. Still, if it’s over 39.2°C or 103°F, you need to get them to the vet to be sure nothing else is going on.


If the dog is moping around or barely moving from their bed, take notice.

Loss of appetite

Everybody likes to eat. If your dog is refusing even his favourite treats and foods, you know something is up.

  • Persistent cough
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Irritated eyes with gooey discharge
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Rest
  • Hydration
  • Nutrition
  • Isolation
  • Antibiotics
  • Hospitalization
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Oxygen therapy

How to Get Rid of Kennel Cough?

So it’s official, your dog has kennel cough? You talked to or have seen the vet, and she verified what you were guessing was true. Now, what can you do to aid in your dog’s timely recovery?

  1. Isolate your dog from other animals, yes even the cat
  2. Clean all bedding, toys, food and water bowls
  3. Offer them plenty of nutritious food and water
  4. Give them every chance to feel better naturally with natural remedies
  5. Veterinarian prescribed medication

Isolate your dog from other animals, yes even the cat.

This is one of the most important parts if you have any other animals. Cats, guinea pigs, horses, and even immunocompromised humans can get kennel cough. It’s super rare, but there have been cases where people with conditions affecting the immune system have been diagnosed with kennel cough.

Clean all bedding, toys, food and water bowls

If your dog has Kennel cough:

  • Clean those toys, food and water bowls well and often
  • Don’t forget about bedding, wash that too
  • Don’t let your other animals share anything (even if they also have Kennel cough),
  • Isolate your animal in sanitised, cosy surroundings with frequently freshened food and water.

Offer them plenty of nutritious food and loads of water.

Just as humans need to continue to fuel and hydrate their bodies during a bout of sickness, it is the same for dogs.

As simple as it sounds, it is a crucial part of the recovery process in dogs. If you notice that your dog is not eating, have you tried giving them something they really like? If you see they haven’t eaten at all in 24 hours, consult your vet.

Veterinarian prescribed medication

For a persistent cough or infection, your veterinarian may prescribe your dog antibiotics.


A severe cough will warrant a prescription of antibiotics. The vet might take some tests, such as blood tests, cultures, and lung x-rays, before treating your pet.

Antibiotics work by killing the bacteria causing the infection or slowing its growth. Antibiotics interfere with the bacteria’s reproduction, attack the bacteria’s wall, and block protein production.

Antibiotics will begin to work immediately, but it can take a few days for the symptoms to start to subside. Dogs will still be contagious for two weeks after they begin antibiotic treatments, so don’t slack on the isolation.

Give them every chance to feel better naturally with natural remedies.

There are a ton of things you can try to aid in your pet’s comfort while they recover from kennel cough. Honey is one of the most well known natural antibacterials, and it has been known to soothe a sore throat accompanied by a cough. Check out this comprehensive list of kennel cough home remedies.

However, don’t leave it all to nature to care for your pet. Consult your vet, especially if the dog is suffering from a fever, lethargy, loss of appetite or difficulty breathing.

Kennel Cough Dos and Don’ts
Do consult with your vet about symptomsDon’t let animals’ symptoms go untreated for more than 24 hours.
Do isolate your pet from other animals, and severely immunocompromised people.Don’t let your pet give you kisses and avoid direct contact if you are severely immunocompromised. (Ex: HIV/AIDS, Cancer, have had an organ transplant)
Do make a delightful isolation space for your sweet baby with sanitised toys, bedding and food and water bowls.Don’t allow other pets to share toys, water or food bowls with other animals in the houses
Do keep an eye on their symptoms and improvement day to day. If they appear to be getting worse, call the vet.Don’t give your pet human medications!
Do use home remedies like humidifiers and steam therapy to relieve common symptomsDon’t use over-the-counter medication without talking to your vet first.


Remember, you know your dog better than anyone, so don’t wait to call the vet if you feel like something is wrong. If a dog’s cough persists, or they are coughing to the point of vomiting, don’t hesitate to call the vet.

If your dog doesn’t seem to be improving from your efforts within a day or two, they may need more medical management to aid in their recovery.

We know you want the best for your animals, so do we! That’s why we are here whenever you need any information about kennel cough.