What Is Kennel Cough? And How Do I Stop It?

By​ ​Courtney​ ​Emken
co-written​ ​by​ ​​Jen​ ​Larson,​ ​KPA-CTP

We have a tendency to worry about any little sneeze or cough our dogs have. Most of the time, it’s just allergies or a similar disturbance. But if it’s a persistent cough, with serious hacking involved, your dog may have something known as “Kennel Cough,” more accurately called Canine Cough.

Canine Cough: What Is It? And How Does My Dog Catch It?

Canine Cough is an infection that affects a dog’s upper-respiratory system. It’s highly contagious, passing from dog to dog through salivary contact and inhalation of bacteria/viruses. The most common ways it’s transferred from dog to dog are:

  • Coughing onto or near other dogs
  • Sneezing onto or near other dogs
  • Sharing food/water bowls
  • Touching nose to nose
  • Contact during playtime

The term “Kennel Cough” comes from a misconception. In the past, dogs were only exposed to Canine Cough in areas with large dog populations living in close quarters, like kennels. But the truth is Canine Cough can be transmitted anywhere, at any time, and between any two dogs.

Canine Cough hits most pet care facilities nationwide, almost annually. Even clean and well kept facilities like DogBoy’s see cases of it. Don’t rush to judge the facility if your dog contracted canine cough there. It’s very difficult to prevent because it has multiple causes, and the bacteria or virus is shed from the infected dog days before symptoms appear. Similarly to how humans can catch a cold or the flu from different viruses, a wide range of bacteria and viruses are responsible for Canine Cough, including:

It’s just like when a child gets a cold or the flu from elementary school: it’s likely going to happen eventually, and if it does, please know it’s not the end of the world. Most cases will go away on their own. And, also like having your kiddos in elementary school, pet care facilities will generally not offer to pay the vet bills for your dog if he or she contracts canine cough while in their care.

Being exposed to Canine Cough is just the risk that comes with socializing your dog. It can happen at a restaurant. It can happen at a pet store. It can happen at a kennel. The best you can do is try to prevent it, and help your dog recover if they catch it.

How Do I Prevent My Dog From Catching Canine Cough?

Since there are so many viruses and bacteria responsible for Canine Cough, it’s impossible to prevent it 100% of the time. Even if your dog doesn’t board at a kennel or go to pet stores, they can catch it in your backyard. All it takes is one infected dog running up to the fence.

However, the most common cause of Canine Cough is the Bordetella bacterium, which can be vaccinated against. The vaccination works with similar success to our flu shots. It can prevent Canine Cough or lessen the severity of it, but it does nothing to stop a different strain of infection.

It’s still advised to get vaccinated against Canine Cough. Any chance of prevention or lessened sickness is worth a shot. Be sure to mention that you plan on boarding your dog when you go to the vet for shots, otherwise they probably won’t bother to give you a Canine Cough vaccination. But if you’re boarding at your vet, you better believe they’ll require it!

Also ask what kind of vaccine they’re giving your dog. The intranasal vaccine typically lasts only six months, while the injectable vaccine can last up to a full year. Every veterinary hospital and every boarding facility has their own policies about vaccinations, so you should ensure you’re up-to-date. Our rule of thumb is to go by what each individual vet recommends.

Should I Take My Dog To The Vet For Canine Cough?

That depends. With most dogs, Canine Cough is just a bad cold/flu that will resolve itself. The typical lifetime of the infection is three to six weeks. Just be sure to monitor your dog closely and see if their symptoms begin to worsen or last longer than that time frame.

If you go to a vet, they’re likely to give your dog antibiotics. What most people don’t realize is that this is not a treatment for Canine Cough. The vet is just being proactive and trying to relieve your worries. Dogs won’t need antibiotics unless there’s a secondary infection.

However, if they do show worsening symptoms, they may have acquired a secondary infection, or have something more serious than Canine Cough, like the more rare Canine Influenza. Watch for lethargy or a cough that’s increasing in severity. At this point, we would definitely recommend taking them to the vet. If you are at anytime worried about your pet, don’t think twice. Seek medical help from your veterinarian or a local animal emergency.

The #1 Piece Of Advice For Dogs With Canine Cough…

PLEASE don’t take your dog anywhere, period, at least for a while.. Canine Cough usually lasts about three weeks, and you should keep your dog inside for another week or two after symptoms stop. It may be tempting to take them to the park and to let them get some fresh air, but they’re still contagious to other dogs.

Even if your dog doesn’t actually get sick, they may still carry the virus. If you know they were exposed to an outbreak of Canine Cough at a kennel or public pet friendly location, keep them inside for around two weeks. It’s the responsible thing to do, and other dog owners are counting on you.

We’ve run our dog boarding kennel in the Austin area for over two decades, and have plenty of experience with Canine Cough. If you have any questions about Canine Cough, or want more tips on how to prevent it, please contact us today.


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Resting Dogs by Capture the Uncapturable

Sick Dog by Oliver Ruhm

Sick Fivey by Mills Baker

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Kennel Cough by Tom Clancy

By | 2017-04-17T00:24:33+00:00 April 17th, 2017|Dog Wellness|0 Comments

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