How Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough

icon October 18, 2023

Dogs, often referred to as "man's best friend," bring joy, companionship, and loyalty into our lives. However, just like humans, our furry friends can sometimes fall ill. One common canine ailment that dog owners should be aware of is kennel cough, a contagious respiratory infection that can affect dogs of all ages and breeds. In this article, we will delve into the various aspects of kennel cough, including its causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

What Is Kennel Cough In Dogs

Kennel cough, medically known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection in dogs. It is similar to the common cold in humans and can range from a mild, self-limiting condition to a more severe and potentially complicated illness. Kennel cough typically presents as a dry, harsh cough, which can sound like your dog is trying to clear its throat or expel something caught in the windpipe. While it may seem harmless, this condition can sometimes lead to more severe complications if left untreated.

How Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough

Kennel cough can be caused by a variety of pathogens, alone or in combination. The primary culprits include:

1. Bordetella bronchiseptica:
This bacterium is one of the most common causes of kennel cough. It is highly contagious and can spread easily in environments with multiple dogs, such as kennels, grooming salons, or dog parks.

2. Canine Parainfluenza Virus (CPIV):
This virus is one of the key contributors to kennel cough. Dogs can contract CPIV through contact with infected dogs or contaminated surfaces.

3. Canine Adenovirus Type 2:
Another virus that can cause kennel cough; this adenovirus primarily affects a dog's respiratory system.

4. Other pathogens:
In some cases, kennel cough can also be caused by other respiratory pathogens like mycoplasma or the canine distemper virus, which are less common but still significant contributors to the disease.

5. Stress and environmental factors:
Stress, overcrowding, and poorly ventilated environments can weaken a dog's immune system, making them more susceptible to kennel cough.

How Kennel Cough Spreads

Kennel cough is highly contagious and can spread in several ways:

1. Direct Contact: Dogs that come into close contact with infected dogs, such as sniffing, licking, or playing, are at a higher risk of contracting the infection.

2. Airborne Transmission: When an infected dog coughs, sneezes, or even barks, tiny respiratory droplets containing the pathogens can linger in the air for a period. Healthy dogs that inhale these droplets can become infected.

3. Contaminated Surfaces: Kennel cough pathogens can survive on surfaces, such as food and water bowls, toys, and even the ground. Dogs can become infected by coming into contact with these contaminated objects and then licking their noses or mouths.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough In A Dog

Kennel cough typically manifests with various symptoms, including:

  • Coughing: The most prominent symptom of kennel cough is a dry, hacking cough. It can be particularly distressing for both the dog and its owner.
  • Sneezing: Infected dogs may also exhibit sneezing or nasal discharge.
  • Lethargy: Dogs with kennel cough might seem more tired or lethargic than usual.
  • Loss of Appetite: Some dogs with this infection may experience a decreased appetite.
  • Low-Grade Fever: In some cases, dogs may have a mild fever, although this is less common.
  • Runny Eyes: Watery or runny eyes can occur due to the infection.

It's important to note that these symptoms can vary in severity and can be similar to those of other respiratory illnesses, such as canine influenza. Therefore, if you suspect your dog has kennel cough, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

How Long Is A Dog Contagious With Kennel Cough

Dogs with kennel cough are typically contagious for about 2 weeks, but they may continue to shed the infectious agents for up to 6-14 weeks after recovery. The exact duration can vary depending on the specific pathogens involved and the individual dog's immune response. It's essential to isolate infected dogs and practice good hygiene during and after their illness to prevent the spread of the infection to other dogs.

Dog Cold vs Kennel Cough

Dog cold and kennel cough have similar respiratory symptoms but are caused by different factors. A dog cold is typically caused by viral infections like canine parainfluenza or canine adenovirus and can be milder, resembling a human cold. Kennel cough, on the other hand, is primarily caused by the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica, the canine parainfluenza virus, and other pathogens. Kennel cough often results in a dry, harsh cough and can be more severe and contagious, particularly in environments with multiple dogs. While both conditions usually resolve on their own, kennel cough may require specific treatment, especially if complications like pneumonia develop, so consulting a veterinarian is advisable.

Kennel Cough Treatment for Dogs

Fortunately, kennel cough is typically a self-limiting condition, and many dogs recover from it without medical intervention. However, for dogs with more severe symptoms or those at risk of complications, treatment may be necessary. Here are some common treatment options:

  • Antibiotics: Since kennel cough can have a bacterial component, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to treat or prevent secondary bacterial infections.
  • Cough Suppressants: To alleviate the discomfort associated with the persistent cough, your vet may recommend cough suppressants.

    Puainta®Anti-inflammatory Cough Tabs for Dogs:

    cough tablets dogs
  • Rest and Isolation: Rest is crucial for a full recovery. Isolate your dog from other dogs to prevent the spread of the infection and give them a quiet, comfortable space to recuperate.
  • Hydration: Encourage your dog to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as coughing can be dehydrating.
  • Nutrition: Ensure your dog is receiving a balanced diet to support their immune system during recovery.

    Recommended Treatment For Stubborn Kennel Cough, Bronchitis, etc.:

    Bronchitis Treatment

Preventing Kennel Cough

Prevention is always better than cure, and there are several measures you can take to reduce the risk of kennel cough:

1. Vaccination:
There are vaccines available for some of the pathogens that cause kennel cough, such as Bordetella and canine parainfluenza virus. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if vaccination is appropriate for your dog, especially if they frequently interact with other dogs.

2. Good Hygiene:
Regularly clean your dog's living area, food and water bowls, and toys to prevent the buildup of pathogens. Use a disinfectant recommended by your veterinarian.

3. Avoid Overcrowding:
Limit your dog's exposure to crowded places, especially during peak kennel cough seasons.

4. Well-Ventilated Areas:
Ensure your dog's environment has good ventilation to reduce the concentration of pathogens in the air.

5. Quarantine:
If you have a sick dog, isolate them from other dogs to prevent the spread of the infection.

6. Stress Management:
Minimize stress in your dog's life, as stress can weaken the immune system. Provide plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and affection.

7. Proper Nutrition:
Feed your dog a balanced diet to maintain their overall health and boost their immune system.

To boost your dog's immune system, you may like Puainta®Antibody Solution:
IGY Immune Health Liquid Supplement for Cats & Dogs

Related Questions:

Can Kennel Cough Go Away On Its Own

Yes, kennel cough can often resolve on its own without treatment, especially in mild cases. However, it's essential to monitor your dog's condition, and if symptoms persist or worsen, consult with a veterinarian to rule out complications or secondary infections that may require medical attention.

Can Dogs Die From Kennel Cough

In most cases, kennel cough is a mild and self-limiting condition that dogs recover from without complications. However, severe cases or those with weakened immune systems can develop complications like pneumonia, which, if left untreated, can be life-threatening.


Kennel cough is a common and highly contagious respiratory infection in dogs that can cause discomfort and distress for both pets and their owners. While it is typically a self-limiting condition, it's essential to be aware of its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. By taking preventive measures, such as vaccination, proper hygiene, and stress management, you can reduce the risk of your dog contracting kennel cough. If you suspect your dog has this illness, consult with your veterinarian to ensure they receive the necessary care and support for a speedy recovery. With knowledge and responsible pet ownership, you can keep your furry companion healthy and happy.

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