Kennel Cough: Symptoms & Solutions

Kennel Cough: Symptoms & Solutions

Alpha Paw Sale
May 24, 2021

Table of Contents

Key Points

  • Kennel cough is an infectious disease in dogs that can be caused by many different types of bacteria or viruses.
  • The most common kennel cough symptoms include a dry hacking or honking cough and gagging or retching.
  • If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with kennel cough, they may prescribe kennel cough antibiotics or dog cough medicine for kennel cough treatment.
  • Because it is hard to diagnose the underlying cause for a cough just by sound, I strongly recommend visiting your veterinarian if your dog is coughing to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is a highly infectious respiratory syndrome in dogs also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis. It can be caused by a variety of pathogens including bacteria and viruses. Your dog can become infected with these pathogens from having direct exposure to other dogs in doggy daycare, dog parks, or boarding facilities. Most often it will cause a persistent dry hacking cough.

What causes kennel cough?

There are many different bacterial and viral organisms that can cause kennel cough. Most of the time, your veterinarian will not be able to tell the exact cause of the kennel cough unless they do special testing. The good news is that, in most cases, your pup will get better with supportive care and medications prescribed by your veterinarian. The most common pathogens that cause kennel cough are:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Canine adenovirus-2
  • Canine parainfluenza virus-2
  • Canine respiratory coronavirus
  • Mycoplasma species
  • Reovirus type 1
  • Canid herpesvirus-1

Kennel Cough Symptoms

The most common symptoms of kennel cough include a dry hacking or honking cough. As a veterinarian, anytime I hear a young healthy dog coughing that has recently been to the boarding facility or doggy daycare, I put kennel cough high on the list. Here is a complete list of kennel cough symptoms according to the AKC:

  • Honking cough
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Sleepiness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Low-grade fever

What does kennel cough sound like?

The classic kennel cough sound is a deep honking cough. It kind of sounds like a goose honking. The cough may get worse as your dog is exercising or if they get excited. Keep in mind that kennel cough can not be diagnosed by sound alone. There are many different causes for coughs, so anytime your pet has a cough, it is a good idea to get them checked out by your veterinarian.

Kennel Cough Sound

If you are interested in hearing what it sounds like for a dog to have kennel cough, check out this YouTube video. This cute beagle has a honking dry cough that may be suggestive of kennel cough. You can also hear him gagging and clearing his throat which is another one of the kennel cough symptoms.

Kennel cough: symptoms & solutions

Kennel Cough Treatment

If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, I recommend calling your veterinarian and scheduling an appointment. Your vet will ask you several questions about your dog and do a physical examination. They may recommend an x-ray of your dog’s chest just to be sure there is no sign of pneumonia or heart issues. Once they have diagnosed kennel cough, your veterinarian will likely prescribe some type of dog cough medicine. Your veterinarian may also recommend kennel cough antibiotics. As your dog is recovering from kennel cough, make sure they are nice and cozy. This machine-washable calming pet bed will provide an excellent recovery area for your dog.

How to treat kennel cough at home?

I typically don’t recommend treating kennel cough at home. There are many different causes of dog coughing. You will not know for sure that your dog has kennel cough based on symptoms alone. You are putting your dog at high risk if you delay seeking veterinary care because there are other serious conditions like heart failure that can cause dog coughing that you may be missing. Don’t delay seeking veterinary care because visiting the vet sooner rather than later will usually save you money in the long run.

How long is kennel cough contagious?

Kennel’s cough is highly contagious. It will be most contagious when your dog is showing the worst symptoms. That being said, they could shed the pathogens at low levels for several days after their kennel cough symptoms disappear. To be safe, I recommend waiting a full week after the kennel cough symptoms have resolved to go back to a boarding or grooming facility. This will ensure that your dog will not infect other dogs.

How long does kennel cough last?

The duration of kennel cough symptoms will depend on how quickly you seek veterinary care. If you visit your veterinarian as soon as you hear your dog coughing, they can prescribe medications that can help improve your dog’s symptoms. Your dog may only have symptoms for 2 to 7 days. If you do not get treatment for your dog, they may have kennel cough symptoms for 2 to 3 weeks.

Kennel cough: symptoms & solutions

Can Kennel Cough Be Prevented?

There are a few measures that you can take to decrease your dog’s risk of kennel cough. The most obvious way to prevent kennel cough is to avoid exposure to other dogs outside your household. If you avoid boarding facilities and opt instead for an in-home pet sitter, this could reduce your dog’s risk of kennel cough. In addition, avoiding dog parks and doggy daycare where there is a high density of dogs may reduce your dog’s risk of developing kennel cough symptoms. The bordetella vaccine can protect against certain infectious agents that cause kennel cough. This kennel cough vaccine will not protect against every bacteria and virus that causes kennel cough, but it can help reduce your dog’s risk of developing kennel cough.

A Few Final Thoughts

Kennel cough is a common infectious disease seen in dogs. Kennel cough symptoms can include a honking cough, retching, and gagging. If your dog has a cough, it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian so they provide kennel cough treatment including a dog cough medicine and kennel cough antibiotics.

Alpha Paw Sale
author image

Dr. Addie Reinhard, DVM

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced companion animal veterinarian who lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats. She graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, and currently practices in the central Kentucky region. Dr. Addie has special interests in preventative care, dermatology, and diseases, and she enjoys creating helpful educational resources related to these topics to help pet parents keep their four-legged family members happy and healthy. We love Dr. Addie’s passion for providing reliable veterinary insight and medical advice to help pet parents like us give their pups the happy & healthy lives they deserve!

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