Kennel Cough: Symptoms and Treatment


Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough is the layman’s term for Infectious Canine Tracheobronchitis or Bordetellosis. It is a highly contagious health condition primarily affecting a dog’s respiratory system. “Tracheobronchitis” describes the inflammatory process that takes place in the dog’s trachea and bronchi. The morbidity rate of Kennel Cough among dogs is quite high. Many dogs suffer from this respiratory problem at least once in their lifetime.

Very young puppies with underdeveloped immune systems are often prone to severe complications from Kennel Cough. Dogs with lowered immune capabilities such as older dogs and pregnant bitches are also at high risk of developing severe complications.

Clinical Signs of Kennel Cough

Being an infection of the respiratory system, dogs suffering from Kennel Cough often manifest the following symptoms:

  • – A dry hacking cough that often sounds like a honking goose
  • – Unproductive retching
  • – Clear nasal discharge
  • – In mild cases, a dog’s appetite may not be affected
  • – Severe cases may be characterized by pneumonia, fever, loss of appetite, and even death.

A high percentage of severe cases of Kennel Cough are often seen in puppies which have not been vaccinated against the disease and also in dogs which are immuno-compromised.

What Causes Kennel Cough?

A common form of dog cough, the condition was often observed in dogs with a history of having spent time in a boarding facility, thus the name “Kennel Cough”.  Being in a place where dogs from different households are kept increases the possibility of transmission of pathogenic microorganisms between dogs.

There are several pathogens which have been associated with the occurrence of Kennel Cough. The most common microorganisms include Bordetella bronchiseptica, mycoplasma spp., and parainfluenza virus. Other less common causes include canine adenovirus, canine herpes virus, and reovirus. Most cases of Kennel Cough are caused by two or more of these identified causative agents.

Among these pathogens, Bordetella bronchiseptica has been identified as the most common type of infectious microorganism isolated from cases of Kennel Cough.

Clinical manifestations are often visible three to four days after exposure to the infection. The duration of the disease usually depends on the species of pathogens causing the disease.

Diagnosis of Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough is diagnosed based on the symptoms manifested by the affected dog as well as the dog’s history of exposure to other dogs. When you bring in your dog to your veterinarian for examination and treatment, be prepared to answer questions about your dog’s detailed history and the time of onset of clinical signs. Your vet may recommend some important diagnostic tests such as a complete blood profile, urinalysis, complete blood count, and possibly bacterial cultures and viral isolation.


The line of treatment for Kennel Cough depends on the severity of the clinical manifestations. Most cases of the disease, particularly the uncomplicated ones, do not need administration of antibiotics. Just like common colds in people, an uncomplicated case of Kennel Cough is best left to run its course. Anti-inflammatory medications may be given to reduce the severity and frequency of a dog’s coughing bouts and make your pet more comfortable. Antibiotics are usually prescribed for dogs with poor appetites, suffering from fever, and manifesting signs of pneumonia.

Protecting your Dog from Kennel Cough

Since most cases of Kennel Cough are associated with exposure to other dogs in boarding kennels or in dog shows, it is best that you avoid exposing your pet to these conditions particularly if it has not been vaccinated against Kennel Cough.

Kennel Cough vaccination is not included among a dog’s core vaccinations however talking with your veterinarian can enlighten you on the benefits of protecting your dog from the disease.

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