So, you just got a new puppy, and now you are researching everything you need to know about early life. The first few months of a dog’s life can be hectic. Between the initial vaccine series, new home, new friends, and new veterinarian, a puppy can get stressed out, and so can their parents!

Like having a new baby, you may be worrying about everything that can go wrong, including kennel cough. Well, you’ve come to the right place. We will be talking about all you need to know about kennel cough in puppies.

Can Puppies Get Kennel Cough?

Yes, they sure can. Kennel cough in puppies is more of a risk due to their underdeveloped immune systems.

Your new puppy will be getting all of its first vaccines at this time, and it is vital to stay on schedule. 

This can also be a stressful time for a new pup. New house, new friends, new veterinarian, etc., so use extra caution in protecting your puppy at these vulnerable stages of life.

Puppies may seem full of energy and like nothing could knock them down, but their immune systems are still too immature to fight off the Bordetella bacteria. Puppies should stay close to home and avoid boarding for the first 3-6 months of their precious lives.

What Is Kennel Cough In Puppies?

What is kennel cough in puppies
Kennel cough in puppies and dogs is also referred to as infectious canine tracheobronchitis or Bordetella. Kennel cough is an incredibly contagious illness affecting many mammals’ upper respiratory systems, most commonly found in dogs.

Kennel cough often (but not always) comes from the Bordetella bacterium. This bacteria is airborne and is transmitted from puppy to puppy by way of inhalation. 

A puppy or dog will many times contract the Bordetella bacteria only after another virus like canine influenza or something similar has compromised the 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.

That’s right, puppies and dogs aren’t the only ones that can catch kennel cough via the sneaky bordetella bacteria. Puppies and dogs present more cases than other groups because of their likelihood for socialization, but cats and immunocompromised humans can get kennel cough too.

How Do Puppies Get Kennel Cough?

How do puppies get kennel cough
Kennel cough in puppies occurs the same way it would in an adult dog. The Bordetella bacterium and all of the respiratory viruses spread via droplets in the air; through sneezes, drool, and sweet, sweet puppy kisses.

Transmission of kennel cough in puppies occurs via:

  • Droplets in the air – sneezes and coughs
  • Direct contact – kisses
  • Sharing toys
  • Contaminated water and food bowls

Kennel cough in puppies is, of course, very similar to kennel cough in dogs, with a few extra vulnerabilities.

  1. Your puppy might not have had his vaccinations yet
  2. Your puppy might have come from a high-risk facility
  3. Your puppy has a weaker immune system

Your Puppy Might Not Have Had His Vaccinations Yet

Puppies don’t usually start their first rounds of core vaccines until about 6 to 8 weeks of age. If you think about it, that’s quite a long time to stay vulnerable to diseases like parvovirus and canine distemper, not to mention kennel cough.

We must stress that it is crucial to keep your pup safe and away from other dogs until they are fully vaccinated.

I know you want your kid to have friends but relish in these few weeks where you can snuggle this new fur baby to the fullest.

Your Puppy Might Come From A High-Risk Facility

Not only are puppies unable to be vaccinated until about two months old, but they may also be coming from a high-risk facility for kennel cough in puppies.

Many pups are rescued from puppy mills, living in kennels and shelters, or have come from breeders with many other animals in the home. 

Please don’t get me wrong, there are reputable breeders out there and tons of animal lovers, but we do need to consider a puppy’s vulnerability to disease in these situations.

Your Puppy Has A Weaker Immune System

As we have said before, puppies have yet to fully develop any of their organs, let alone an efficient immune system.

Unlike their adult counterpart, who may be able to take it easy for a couple of weeks and recover completely from kennel cough, a puppy with kennel cough could be in serious trouble.

Where Can My Puppy Catch Kennel Cough?

Where does puppy catch kennel cough
Like the rest of us, the bordetella bacteria likes to be warm and cozy and surrounded by animals. However, bordetella bacteria have less than good intentions.

Environments that pose a high-risk for kennel cough in puppies include:

  • Crowded areas
  • Warm places
  • Poorly ventilated spaces
High-risk situations for kennel coughWhy are they high risk?What to do about it
Crowded areasCluttered rooms and cramped buildings are a breeding ground for Bordetella bacteriaKeep things somewhat organized and uncluttered. This will make sanitation much simpler
Warm placesBacteria do the best in warm, moist climates, and bordetella is no different.Keep the temperature at a reasonable level. You can always throw a sweater on
Poorly ventilated spacesStagnant air isn’t good for anyoneAir out your home every so often and keep air circulating with fans.
Travel & StressStress can contribute to the diminishing of the dog’s immune system and the heightened susceptibility to infection.Keep long trips and air travel to a minimum in the first year. Introduce car rides slowly. Enjoy the ride!

The 5 Most Common Places Your Puppy Can Pick Up Kennel Cough:

  • Boarding Kennels – Hence the name “Kennel Cough.”
  • Grooming shops
  • Animal Shelters
  • Dog Parks
  • Vet’s Offices

Any places where a large group of dogs meet up to play can be risky, particularly before they have all of their vaccines, and I mean all of them. 

Listen, we want your new pup to have as much fun as you do but in the beginning, erring on the side of caution is the best option. It’s only for a couple of months!

Does My Puppy Have Kennel Cough?

Does my puppy have kennel cough
If your puppy is coughing more than occasionally, call your vet. Puppies are delicate, and early intervention makes things easier for everyone.

If you think your puppy has kennel cough, you may notice some or all of the following kennel cough symptoms:

Common Symptoms Of Kennel Cough In Puppies:

  1. Dry Cough
  2. Runny eyes and nose
  3. Sneezing
  4. Fever
  5. Abnormal breathing patterns
  6. Retching
  7. Loss of appetite
  8. Loss of energy

Dry Cough

Ah, the kennel cough sound – that dreaded, persistent, hacking cough. Often, owners compare it to the dog sounding like they have something stuck in their throat, though the cough is entirely unproductive. Listen to this poor baby to get an idea of what a case of the sound a puppy with kennel cough makes.

Runny Eyes and Nose

The condition causing runny or gooey red eyes is referred to as conjunctivitis or pink eye. In puppies and dogs, the eyes and nose may run with greenish, mucusy slime.

Sneezing

Baby puppy sneezes are the cutest, but they can indicate something else is going on. Maybe it’s just allergies to irritants but be aware of your puppy’s symptoms. This will aid in the veterinarian’s diagnosis.

Fever

Puppies and dogs will sometimes develop a low-grade fever with a case of kennel cough. If you feel like your puppy is running hot, please consult your vet immediately.

A low-grade fever is a somewhat common symptom of kennel cough in puppies, but the situation can become concerning quickly if left untreated.

Abnormal Breathing Patterns

Between an inflamed larynx and the stuffy nose, a puppy with kennel cough is bound to have some difficulty breathing. Keep a close eye on your furry friend and consult with your vet if breathing becomes labored.

Loss of Appetite

If your puppy with kennel cough loses its appetite, it is a dead give away that they are not feeling well and may be in need of medical intervention—time to call the vet.

Loss of Energy

A relaxed and chill puppy? No way! There must be something going on here. Call and visit your vet!

What To Do For Kennel Cough In Puppies?

Treat kennel cough in puppies
A puppy with kennel cough is a sad sight. The cough sounds awful, and it hurts to see your new puppy coughing, sneezing, and feeling blah.

With the help of your vet, some R&R, and meds if necessary, most cases of kennel cough in puppies will clear up after a few weeks.

How To Treat Kennel Cough In Puppies

Let’s dive into the five most effective ways to treat kennel cough for your precious pup:

  1. Rest & relaxation
  2. Hydration
  3. Clean eating
  4. Cough suppressants
  5. Antibiotics

Rest & Relaxation

It might not mean the same thing to puppies as it does to us, but there isn’t much of a difference.

If your puppy has a bit of a cough but is acting normal otherwise, eating well, and doesn’t have a fever, some quality rest can help recover a puppy with kennel cough.

Hydration

Just as we do, dogs need lots of fluids to aid in their recovery. Drinking water improves brain function and helps to keep you regular.

Hydration is also necessary and vital when taking some antibiotics or other medicines, for they have been known to cause an increase in thirst.

Clean Eating

Your puppy doesn’t have to go plant-based, but if your perfect pup isn’t feeling 100%, you can consider switching up their diet with healthier options. Always consult with your vet before changing your dog’s diet.

Cough Suppressants

The vet can offer or suggest prescription cough suppressants or natural ones to soothe your baby’s sore throat and calm the hacking. When seeking cough suppressants as a kennel cough cure for your puppy, stick with vet-recommended medicines, no matter how enticing they may be, to order something from Amazon.

You can consider making some natural remedies like our favorite, honey and lemon kennel cough tea. Not your typical earl grey, but an excellent cough suppressant and a tasty treat! Check out our blog on natural remedies.

Honey has been proven to be a natural antibiotic, killing some forms of even antibiotic-resistant bacteria! This kennel cough cure is suitable for a lot of things. Your leftover organically farmed honey will not go to waste.

Remember that honey, though it has some significant benefits, is also high in sugar. We advise not to exceed one to two tablespoons daily.

Antibiotics

Though not all of the cases of infectious kennel cough will require the use of antibiotics, your vet may prescribe one for a puppy with kennel cough.

You may already know, the bacteria Bordetella is very often involved in kennel cough manifestation. Though Bordetella isn’t always the sole cause of kennel cough, antibiotics will still be advantageous in killing the bacteria and halting the cells’ further reproduction. The virus will need to clear in its own time.

Beware: Some Kennel Cough Treatments Can Have Adverse Effects On Puppies

Many kennel cough treatment options are acceptable for puppies in moderation while also considering their size and weight. However, some medications are not recommended for dogs under a certain age.

For example, the antibiotic enrofloxacin is sometimes used to combat the kennel cough bacteria Bordetella. Enrofloxacin can be harmful to puppies causing abnormalities in the joints of growing dogs. 

Educating yourself on any medications that your new fur baby is taking can provide some extra reassurance along with the help of your veterinarian.

How To Avoid Kennel Cough Reinfection In Puppies

Prevent kennel cough in puppy
If you have a pack of fur babies at home, follow these three steps to break the cycle of kennel cough infection:

  1. Sanitize common areas and wash your hands often
  2. Isolate puppies and dogs with kennel cough from the rest of the animals in the household
  3. Don’t share toys, bedding, or food and water bowls between animals.

Sanitize Common Areas And Wash Your Hands Often

Though Bordetella is airborne and still capable of being spread when cleanliness is evident, it is always the best idea to keep things extra clean and sanitary. Sanitation is incredibly helpful in kennel cough recovery for puppies.

Isolation

Separation from your puppy with kennel cough sounds like a punishment, but if you have other animals in the house, you will need to isolate whoever has Kennel Cough separately. Kennel cough is so contagious; that multiple dogs could swiftly transfer the illness back and forth indefinitely.

You can still choose to hang with your sick puppy as long as you’re not putting yourself at risk. If you are immunocompromised, you may need to have your spouse, roommate, or friend take the reins while the illness runs its course.

Wear a mask and wash your hands between handling your puppy with kennel cough and your other pets.

Don’t Share

Sharing is usually caring, but not in this case—Sanitise all of the toys, especially the favorite ones. Kennel cough is spread and contracted by particles in the air or direct contact with contaminated objects. They probably won’t like a newly sanitized ball as much, but look at the bright side; they get to muck it up again!

How to Avoid Kennel Cough in Puppies (and Dogs)

When it comes to preventing kennel cough in your puppy or dog, follow this rule of three:

  • Vaccinate
  • Keep social outings to a minimum or non-existent until your pup is fully vaccinated
  • Avoid boarding and doggy daycare until fully vaccinated.

Though the bordetella vaccine is optional, it is necessary to avoid kennel cough in puppies in many cases. Since puppies are already working with a weakened immune system, they can use all the help they can get, mostly if they will be hanging out with any other dogs.

Whether it’s an afternoon at the dog park around the corner from your apartment or enjoying a play date with your mate’s dogs, use caution when dealing with an unvaccinated puppy. 

We made a mini table with a few alternate options for traditional socializing activities that should be avoided for the first few months of your puppy’s life.

DilemmaInstead of this:Try this:
Taking a vacationBoardingHiring a pet sitter
SocializationDog parkPlay Dates with dogs and parents you know
ExerciseDoggy Day CareLong nature walks

Can Puppies Die From Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is undoubtedly a pain in the butt and uncomfortable for the animal, but it is rarely fatal. However, in severe cases, a puppy with kennel cough could develop pneumonia if left untreated.

Puppies and dogs with weakened immunity are at higher risk of kennel cough progressing to something more serious. Since puppies have yet to develop a healthy and efficient immune system fully, a case of kennel cough turned to pneumonia could result in fatality.

Conclusion

Kennel cough in puppies is a frightening situation and nothing to be taken lightly, but judging by all of the research you are seeking out, your puppy is going to be in good hands regardless of what may come.

Preventative care, vaccination, and all the love you have to give is the ticket when it comes to kennel cough in puppies. Enjoy this moment in time with your new baby, and stay healthy out there!