Kennel Cough in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Does your dog have a dry 'hacking' cough? If so, your canine companion might be experiencing kennel cough. Our Monroe vets share information about this highly contagious respiratory disease and what to do if your dog is coughing.

What is kennel cough?

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis (aka 'kennel cough') is a respiratory disease that is commonly seen in dogs. Kennel cough is often caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria and canine parainfluenza virus which attack the lining of the respiratory tract, causing inflammation and irritation of the dog's upper airway. Although kennel cough is rarely serious for most otherwise healthy dogs, it can lead to more serious secondary infections in young puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with a weakened immune system.

The disease is called kennel cough because of how contagious it is; anywhere that pets are in close contact (e.g. kennels, dog parks, multi-dog homes) can cause kennel cough to spread rapidly. Kennel cough is transmitted from dog to dog through contact with infected droplets in the air. This can be through direct contact with the infected dog or through contact with objects that the infected droplets have landed on such as dog toys, bowls, cages, or blankets.

What are kennel cough symptoms in dogs?

The main symptom of kennel cough is a non-productive (no phlegm or mucus) persistent dry cough. The sound has been compared to a goose honk, or like your dog has something stuck in their throat. Some other symptoms of kennel cough can include runny nose, sneezing, lack of energy, decreased appetite, and mild fever.

If your dog exhibits symptoms of kennel cough, keep your pet away from other dogs and contact your vet right away for advice.

If your dog is showing mild symptoms and is otherwise in good health, your vet may recommend isolating your dog from other pets to prevent the spread of this extremely contagious disease. In most cases, allowing your dog to rest for a few days will aid in recovering from kennel cough, but if your pup's symptoms are more severe your vet may recommend bringing your pet in for an examination.

How do vets diagnose kennel cough?

Diagnosing kennel cough is more or less a process of elimination. Since there are a number of more concerning conditions that have similar symptoms to those of kennel cough, your vet will examine your pet for signs of a collapsing trachea, heartworm disease, bronchitis, asthma, cancer, heart disease, and more. Coughing in dogs can also be a symptom of canine distemper virus or canine influenza 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 pet's symptoms.

How is kennel cough in dogs treated?

Adult dogs that are otherwise healthy usually respond well to treatment, and in fact, your vet may decide that no medications are required and that the best cure for your dog is resting while they recover from the infection (much like the human cold). 

If your dog is experiencing more severe symptoms, your vet may prescribe medications such as antibiotics to avoid secondary infections or cough suppressants to help ease your canine friend's persistent cough.

During your dog's recovery, it's a good idea to switch from neck collars to a body harness when taking your dog for walks. You can also use a humidifier in rooms where your dog spends time, as this can help to relieve your dog's dry cough.

Most dogs recover from kennel cough within a week or two, but if your dog's symptoms persist for longer a follow-up veterinary appointment is essential. In some cases, kennel cough can lead to more serious conditions like pneumonia.

How can I protect my dog against kennel cough?

If your dog is a social butterfly and spends a lot of time with other dogs, ask your veterinarian about vaccinations that can protect your pup against kennel cough. Although this vaccine may help to reduce the transmission of kennel cough, it is not a 100% prevention since kennel cough can be caused by a number of different pathogens.

Three forms of the vaccine are available: injection, nasal mist, and oral medication. If your veterinarian recommends a kennel cough vaccine, then they will choose the most suitable form for your dog.

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.

Is your dog suffering from a dry hacking cough? Contact Monroe Veterinary Clinic to book an examination for your four-legged friend!