Is there any friend more loyal and reliable than a dog? Who else will run to your side at first sight of tears shed? Will others love you not only at your best but also at your worst?

Most of us have realized that dogs can offer us way more than we can offer them for the most part. They dedicate all of their time and energy to making us happy and prideful. The least we can do is make every moment we have with them as lovely as possible.

If you have a canine BFF in your life, you want to give them the happiest, healthiest life experience possible. 

Being aware, proactive, and informed of symptoms and irregular behavior in your furry friend is the first step in keeping them healthy and virile into their golden years.

What is Kennel Cough?

What is Kennel Cough?Kennel cough or Bordetella is one of the most common illnesses in dogs. Kennel cough is a highly contagious upper respiratory condition and will spread from one dog to another quickly. However, if you know the symptoms of kennel cough and what to look for, the most obvious being a nasty cough, you’ll be able to quarantine and nurse your sick pup back to health in no time.

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.

Viruses that typically accompany Bordetella in manifesting the elusive “Kennel Cough” are Adenovirus, Parainfluenza, and Distemper. Because there are so many variables within the illness itself, one kennel cough vaccine will not cure or prevent every Kennel Cough mutation.

Can My Dog Get Kennel Cough Even If Vaccinated?

The short answer is – yes.

Many veterinarians may suggest passing on the kennel cough vaccination if it is not necessary. If your dog is not boarded or around unfamiliar dogs often, you may choose to skip the vaccine altogether. If you need the vaccine for liability reasons and boarding, ask your vet about the pros and cons of the different forms of the vaccination.

A study tested three types of Kennel Cough vaccines for effectiveness.

Kennel cough in dogs is very similar to the flu in humans. The Flu and kennel cough are such good friends that they share a sickness season! So you and your pup could end up cuddling with your rosy, runny noses and box of tissues beside you on a chilly winter’s day.

As with the flu vaccine in humans, there are so many different strains of the virus that it’s virtually impossible to protect against all mutations in existence. The vaccination may decrease the symptoms’ severity, but there is no guarantee that the vaccine will protect your dog from contracting kennel cough from another infected doggo.

About 70 – 80% of kennel cough cases are lessened in symptom severity or avoided entirely with the use of the vaccine, while 20 – 30% are not. The Bordetella vaccine is not useful in cases where the dog is already incubating the bacteria.

Where Are Dogs Most Likely To Pick Up Kennel Cough?

Common Places Dogs Contract Kennel CoughIdeal breeding places for the Bordetella bacteria are places that are:

  • Crowded areas
  • Warm places
  • Areas lacking ventilation
  • Travel & stress

Crowded places

Cluttered rooms and cramped buildings, especially if they’re not consistently cleaned, are a breeding ground for Bordetella bacteria.

Warm places

We all know bacteria do best in warm, moist climates, and this one is no different.

Areas lacking proper ventilation

Remember how your grandma swore by leaving the bedroom window open a pinch even in the bitter winter months? She raved of the benefits of airing out the house every so often, and now, so do you! Well, same thing here. Fresh air is good.

Travel & Stress

How to Tell if My Dog has Kennel CoughTraveling with a dog can be glorious, but it can also be stressful. Stress can contribute to the diminishing of the dog’s immune system and the heightened susceptibility of infection. Air travel can be stressful for humans and animals alike, with people and animals rushing by from everywhere. Indeed not an ideal place for a dog who is in any way immunocompromised.

Here are a few common examples of places where your dog can pick up Kennel Cough:

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

Any places where a large group of dogs meet up to play can be risky. Don’t keep your dog locked up like Mommy Dearest but erring on the side of caution is never a bad idea. Most Kennel cough cases are benign and will heal themselves in a few weeks.

Keep in mind; Kennel Cough is super contagious and airborne, so an outbreak at your boarding facility doesn’t necessarily mean that they violate any of these guidelines.

The Bordetella bacterium spreads via droplets in the air, through sneezes, slobber, and sweet dog kisses. It is possible to have a mass case before you can say “Bordetella!” even in the most sanitary conditions.

Early Symptoms of Kennel Cough

Early Symptoms of Kennel Cough in DogsDogs will still be active and eating and drinking as usual, however there are some early symptoms you can pick up on:

  1. A mild cough
  2. Sneezing
  3. Snorting

Mild Cough

When Bordetella enters the respiratory system, it can cause inflammation of the larynx and trachea, causing a dry cough across the board in almost every case. 

  • Kennel cough can sound a bit like a horn.
  • You may think they have something stuck in their throat.
  • You will be able to tell the difference between this and your dog’s standard “I got a blade of grass stuck in my throat” hack.

Sneezing

This can involve abnormal nasal excretions – lovely.

Snorting

This one is a little out of the ordinary but your dog should have no trouble breathing or lethargy.

If your dog has such slight symptoms, you may consider trying some home remedies for kennel cough.

If symptoms continue to worsen or do not improve within one week, call or visit your veterinarian.

Mild Symptoms of Kennel Cough

Mild symptoms manifest a lot like a cold or a sinus infection would in humans. Slight symptoms include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Discharge of the eyes
  • Nasal secretions
  • Difficulty breathing

Persistent cough

The number one and most universal symptom – dry, hacking cough. As the symptoms worsen, the dogs may cough up foamy white phlegm.

Discharge of the eyes 

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

Nasal secretions

Runny noses can range from a watery, clear liquid to a thick yellow discharge fondly known as normal boogers.

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.

You can try to give them a steamy bath while being careful the water is not too warm or cold. Just taking them in a steamy bathroom can help soothe the chest congestion.

Remember that dogs get freaked by loud noises, so consider steaming up the bathroom then bringing the dog in after you have turned off all of the faucets.

Stages of Kennel CoughSymptomsTreatment
Early
  • Slight, dry cough
  • Sneezing
  • Activity level remains unchanged
  • Rest
  • Hydration
  • Nutrition
  • Isolation
Mild
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Sneezing
  • Watery, nasal secretions
  • Irritated eyes with possible gooey discharge
  • Rest
  • Hydration
  • Nutrition
  • Isolation
  • Cough suppressants
  • Antibiotics (possibly)
Severe
  • Persistent, dry, retching cough
  • Gagging, and coughing to the point of vomiting.
  • Watery or thick yellowish nasal secretions
  • Irritated eyes with gooey discharge
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Rest
  • Hydration
  • Nutriton
  • Isolation
  • Antibiotics
  • Hospitalization
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Oxygen therapy

*Dogs usually don’t lose their appetite or energy for playtime in the early stages or mild kennel cough stages. If your dog is lethargic, they may have a more severe case or have an infection and should see the vet right away.

Severe Symptoms of Kennel Cough

Severe Kennel Cough SymptomsIf your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, visit your veterinarian immediately.

  • Constant violent cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Trachea sensitivity
  • Fever

Constant violent cough

If your dog is coughing so hard that he starts to vomit, it’s time to see the vet.

Loss of appetite

If your dog loses interest in food and water, this is a telltale sign that their condition is deteriorating rapidly. Time to call the vet.

Lethargy

As pet owners, we know when are dog is acting out of the ordinary. If your dog has lost interest in playing, even his favourite treats and toys, that’s a telltale sign that things are serious.

Trachea sensitivity

Due to the trachea’s inflammation and consistent, spontaneous coughing, the dog may have a sore throat sensitive to collars and light pressure. Be sure to walk your dog with a harness or gentle lead to avoid causing excess inflammation of the throat. 

Fever

Kennel Cough rarely mutates into something in need of hospitalization, but a fever signifies that further medical help is needed. If left untreated, Kennel cough can lead to pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Kennel Cough in Puppies

Kennel Cough in Puppies

Puppies are more susceptible to Kennel Cough due to their underdeveloped immune systems. Though they may seem healthy and agile, 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.

The following are common symptoms of Kennel Cough in puppies:

  • Dry Cough
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Abnormal breathing patterns
  • Retching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of energy

While most of these symptoms are obvious, here are a few details:

Dry Cough

Choking, gagging, retching.

Runny eyes and nose

Watery or yellowish discharge

Fever

This is serious. Do not let it go untreated.

Abnormal breathing patterns

You probably know what your puppy sounds like from them sleeping next to or on your head for the past three months, so pay attention. If you feel like something is wrong, don’t wait; call the vet.

Loss of appetite

Again, this is a dead give away that your dog is not okay and needs medical intervention.

Loss of energy

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

Kennel Cough Prevention

In some cases, you might be able to prevent Kennel Cough in your dog by seeking alternative options to boarding, socialising, and exercising your pup.

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

How to Avoid Kennel Cough in Puppies (and Dogs)

Avoiding Kennel Cough

  • Avoid other dogs that look like they might have a cold. Runny eyes and noses are good inclinations that you should keep your puppy out of their reach. Just as we humans would avoid shaking hands with someone who just wiped their nose with it, we want our dogs to withdraw from sick animals whenever possible.
  • Avoid sharing toys, water, and food bowls with other dogs outside of your home and family.
  • Try to avoid big groups of dogs for the first few months.
  • Sociability is essential for pups, but don’t be afraid to ask fellow dog owners if something seems off.
  • Go to the park when it’s not as busy. Try early in the morning or on your lunch break.
  • Organize play dates with dog parents you know and trust.
  • Don’t leave any dog outside in chilly weather ever, but especially puppies. They can develop colds just like us, and Bordetella will be happy to jump on that immunodeficient train.
  • Keep housing adequately ventilated.
  • Puppies can get the nasal vaccine as early as three weeks old.

What is the Incubation Period for Kennel Cough Symptoms?

It can take anywhere from 2-14 days after exposure to kennel cough for symptoms to appear initially. 

Often, the cough will go away on its own with rest and some natural cough suppressants. If coughing persists beyond one week, seek medical attention.

How Long Do Kennel Cough Symptoms Last?

Kennel cough symptoms can continue for 10-20 days and can recur when the dog is under the stress of travel or the like.

Most kennel cough cases are resolved within three weeks or double that (six weeks) for the immunocompromised doggos like puppies and seniors.

How to Treat Kennel Cough In Dogs

The cough sounds terrible, and it hurts to see your favorite canine coughing, sneezing, and feeling blah; luckily, most cases clear up on their own after a few weeks with the help of some good old cold cures.

Follow these 5 preventative steps to keep Kennel Cough at bay:

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

Rest & Relaxation

It might not mean the same thing to the dogs as it does to us, but there isn’t much difference. If your dog has a bit of a cough but is acting normal otherwise, eating well, and doesn’t have a fever, the vet may suggest skipping the visit for now and instead prescribe a steady stream of rest.

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. Dogs enjoy the same benefits.

Clean eating

Your dog doesn’t have to go plant-based, but if your perfect pup isn’t feeling 100 percent, 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.

Antibiotics

In some cases, antibiotics are necessary to prevent secondary infections from occurring.

How to Avoid Reinfection in Multi Dog Homes

If you have a pack of fur babies at home, follow these three steps to break the cycle of Kennel Cough infection:

  1. Disinfect and wash your hands often
  2. Isolate sick dogs from the rest (if you can)
  3. Minimise toy sharing

Disinfect 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.

Isolation

Separation is no fun, 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.

Don’t share

Sharing is usually caring but not in this case. Sanitize all of the toys, especially the favorite ones. Kennel cough is spread and contracted by particles in the air and can also be on your dog’s favorite slobber ball. They probably won’t like a newly sanitized ball as much, but look at the bright side, they get to muck it up again!

Conclusion

If you’re reading this, I’ll guess that you agree – our animals are our life. Dogs are all loving, and we could all stand to learn a thing or two from them—compassion, a lust for life, and simple pleasures, and loyalty that has no end.

Our dogs make us smile in our darkest times. With just a snuggle, a sweet glance, or an offered paw, they bring endless joy into the mundane everyday. With every ball thrown and every walk you’ve taken together, our furry companions grow closer to our hearts.

We dog lovers only want the best for our fur kids, so we get up at 6 am for a morning stroll; we stay outside in the cold to watch them delight in the pouncing of snow waves, and we do our research on how to best take care of them when they have seen better days.

Caring for a dog is one of the biggest and best responsibilities any human can ask for, and we try to be worthy of their love by doing the best we can for them and their health.