What is Kennel Cough in Dogs? Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Your dog may have kennel cough if their cough is dry and nonproductive. In this blog, our Riverbank vets talk about the symptoms and causes of kennel cough in dogs and what you should do if your dog starts coughing.

Kennel Cough in Dogs

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis (also referred to as kennel cough) is a respiratory disease that is often diagnosed in dogs. Many cases of kennel cough are caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria and canine parainfluenza virus, which attacks the lining of the respiratory tract of dogs and makes the upper airways irritated and inflamed. If you have an adult dog that is otherwise healthy overall, this condition shouldn't be too serious but, it could result in more serious secondary infections in senior dogs, very young puppies, and dogs that have weakened immune systems.

The term kennel cough stems from the very contagious character of this illness, which makes it spread easily in places where pets come into close proximity with each other like multidog homes, dogs parks, and of course kennels. Kennel cough is spread when dogs come in contact with the droplets released through the cough of an infected dog. This can be through direct contact with the infected dog or by coming into contact with objects that the droplets have landed on, such as dog toys, bowls, cages, or blankets.

The Symptoms of Dog Kennel Cough

The most recognizable symptom of kennel cough is a persistent non-productive dry cough that can sound like a goose honk, or as if your dog has something caught in their throat. Other symptoms of kennel cough are decreased appetite, lack of energy, sneezing, a mild fever, and runny nose.

If you see your dog displaying signs of kennel cough keep them separated from the other pets in your home and call your vet immediately to get advice. 

As this condition is highly contagious, if your pooch is overall healthy, and their symptoms are only mild, your vet might just suggest keeping them isolated from other dogs and providing your pooch with a few days to rest as your keep an eye on their symptoms.

However, if your dog has more serious symptoms your veterinarian might recommend bringing them in so they can be examined. 

Diagnosing Kennel Cough in Dogs

Vets usually diagnose dogs with kennel cough through a process of elimination, as there are several other more serious conditions that have similar symptoms to kennel cough. So, your vet will assess your pet looking for signs of bronchitis, heartworm disease, collapsing trachea, cancer, asthma, and more. Coughing could also be an indication of the canine influenza virus or canine distemper virus.

Based on the results of your pet's examination and medical history your vet will determine whether kennel cough is the likely cause of your pup's symptoms.

Treatments for Dogs with Kennel Cough

Treating adult dogs that are in good overall health is usually fairly easy. Your vet might determine that your pooch doesn't need medications and that rest is the best treatment while the infection clears up (similar to human colds).

If your dog has more severe symptoms your vet might prescribe antibiotics to help keep secondary infections from developing or cough suppressants to give your pooch some relief from the continuous coughing.

While your dog recovers, we recommend using a body harness instead of a neck collar when you are taking them for walks. You may also want to use a humidifier in rooms where your dog spends time, as this can help to relieve your dog's symptoms.

It generally takes about one or two weeks for most dogs to recover from kennel cough. If your pup's symptoms continue for longer than this, it's imperative to schedule a follow-up appointment with your vet. Sometimes, kennel cough can lead to pneumonia.

Preventing Kennel Cough in Dogs

If your pup regularly spends time with other dogs, ask your vet about vaccinating your pet against kennel cough. While this vaccine may help to prevent kennel cough it doesn't offer 100% prevention because kennel cough can be caused by a handful of different pathogens.

Three forms of the vaccine are available injection, nasal mist, and oral medication. If the kennel cough vaccine is recommended for your pet, your veterinarian will choose the most appropriate form.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Contact River Oak Veterinary Hospital and schedule an appointment for your pup if they are showing signs of kennel cough.