Kennel cough, also called canine cough and infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious viral infection of a dog's upper respiratory tract. Most of the time, kennel cough is spread by dogs, objects, or air droplets that have been contaminated by infected dogs.
Dogs can contract kennel cough from other animals, such as cats or humans, but they are more susceptible to contracting it when the virus is present in their environment.
In fact, many veterinarians believe that one reason why kennel cough spreads so easily in dog boarding facilities is that there are so many different breeds packed into such small spaces where they all share toys and equipment.
How Does a Dog Get Kennel Cough?
Kennel cough is an infection of the upper respiratory tract caused by a group of viruses that spread quickly. It is not unusual for a dog to get kennel cough after being around other dogs, especially in kennels, shelters, or boarding facilities.
Kennel cough can affect dogs of any age and breed—even puppies as young as 3 weeks old can get it.
Where Does Kennel Cough Come From?
Kennel cough is a respiratory disease that affects dogs. It's often confused with the common cold and other upper-respiratory infections because it causes similar symptoms, like coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge.
Kennel cough can be spread by coming into direct contact with an infected dog or by coming into contact with their saliva or mucus (when they sneeze or bark). Direct contact means physical contact between dogs sharing food bowls, drinking from the same water bowl, or living in close proximity to one another.
It can also be spread by humans carrying the disease from one kennel facility to another on their hands, clothes, and shoes.
While humans cannot infect dogs directly with kennel cough, they can carry the bacteria on their clothing or shoes into dog facilities, where they may then infect other animals.
What Are the Signs of Kennel Cough in Dogs?
Kennel cough is typically caused by a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica, which can be transmitted through airborne droplets from an infected animal’s coughs and sneezes. Kennel cough symptoms in dogs include:
- Coughing (or hacking)
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal discharge
How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?
The length of time that kennel cough lasts depends on the dog's age and overall health. In healthy dogs, the symptoms may clear up within a few weeks or less (usually no longer than two months). For puppies under four months old, this period can be extended to six or seven weeks.
If your pet has additional health issues or is otherwise weak, kennel cough could last for several months. Some vets recommend keeping your dog on antibiotics throughout this entire period so that he doesn't get sick again when you stop giving him medicine at some point during his recovery.
How Do You Treat Kennel Cough?
If your dog has been diagnosed with kennel cough, know that antibiotics are not recommended (unless there is another infection present). Antibiotics can cause diarrhea and yeast infections in dogs. They also have a wide range of other health effects, including allergies and liver damage.
A veterinarian will likely prescribe one or all of the following treatments:
- Medication to suppress coughing
- Warm fluids by mouth
- Restricted activity until symptoms subside
If your dog has a severe case of kennel cough, they may be extremely weak and not want to eat or drink. In these cases, treatment with IV fluids is often necessary.
Pneumonia can also develop in severe cases, resulting in the need for hospitalization so your dog can receive IV fluids, antibiotics, and oxygen therapy if necessary.
While your dog has kennel cough or throughout the healing process, you shouldn't wear a collar and leash. Collars put pressure on the esophagus, which could make coughing worse. Grab a harness if you don't already have one so you can minimize the impact on your dog's body while going for their daily walks.
Can My Dog Get Kennel Cough Even When Vaccinated?
The good news is that there is a Bordetella vaccine for dogs available to prevent kennel cough. The bad news is that it is not 100% effective.
The vaccine is recommended for puppies under 1 year of age and can be given up to one month after age 8 weeks. It will stop infections with the strain of Bordetella that causes most cases of kennel cough in dogs, but it won't protect against all strains that cause coughs in dogs, like parainfluenza viruses and adenoviruses.
It's important to remember that if your pet just got a kennel cough vaccine before going to the boarding facility or dog park where infected animals were, she may have been exposed anyway because vaccinations weaken the immune system during this critical time.
Canine Probiotics Can Help Strengthen the Immune System
Probiotics are a type of good bacteria that help keep your dog's digestive system healthy. A healthy digestive system is important to overall health, as the digestive tract is where most of the immune system resides.
Daily probiotics, like Daily Dog, can also help strengthen your dog's immune system, which will help protect him against infections and disease. In addition, they may help control symptoms associated with diarrhea and other gastrointestinal disorders.
Get Veterinary Treatment
We hope that this information has helped you better understand the nature of kennel cough, or Bordetella in dogs, as well as how to prevent it. While it’s not a life-threatening condition, it can be very frustrating to deal with and could put your pet at risk of complications. If your dog begins showing signs of kennel cough, be sure to bring them to the vet as soon as possible so they can monitor their progress and ensure they get the best treatment possible.