Kennel Cough in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment

Is your dog coughing excessively or making choking sounds for no apparent reason? The cause could be kennel cough, which is also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis. Don’t let the name scare you. This is a fairly common condition and is not as serious as it sounds. In fact, in most dogs, the disease will go away on its own without treatment. However, it can be very uncomfortable for someone to see their dog in obvious discomfort and this type of illness can easily cause a lot of stress and worry about your dog’s health. To help ease your concerns, we’ll take a closer look at kennel cough, how it’s treated, and what signs to look for in your dog.

divider dog paw

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a common and highly contagious canine disease. Often called Bordetella because of its bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica generally cause it. Usually, Bordetella infection is not the only disease. Dogs tend to catch both the virus and Bordetella at the same time, and the virus makes them more susceptible to Bordetella bacterial infection. Common viruses that are contracted together with Bordetella include canine herpes virus, parainfluenza virus, canine distemper virus, canine reovirus, and canine adenovirus.

sick jack russell

Causes of Kennel Cough

Because kennel cough is highly contagious, dogs will generally catch it after coming into contact with other dogs. Cages are one of the common places for cage cough infections; hence the name. Other places where dogs can get kennel cough include dog parks, dog shows, training groups, and puppy care.

Bacteria from an infected dog can be released into the air when exhaling. Other dogs inhale and inhale the bacteria. Usually, this will not be a problem because the mucus that lines the respiratory tract can trap these bacteria. However, if the dog’s respiratory tract is weakened, it could mean bacteria are entering, and inflammation will soon develop in the larynx and trachea.

READ ALSO:   Can Bearded Dragons Eat Blackberries? What you need to know!

Some of the factors that can cause the respiratory tract to weaken include cold temperatures, poorly ventilated environment, stress from travel, dust, smoke, and more. All of these can decrease your dog’s ability to fight infection, which can increase the chances of catching crate cough.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

In its early stages, the symptoms of a kennel cough are almost identical to the symptoms you see with canine influenza or viral distemper. This can make it a little more difficult to diagnose. In addition, other common conditions can cause a cough similar to a cage cough, including bronchitis, asthma, heart disease, or a collapsed trachea. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, contact your veterinarian and they can perform further testing to determine if your dog has kennel cough or something else.

  • A persistent, intense cough that makes it sound like your dog is honking the horn

  • Excessive sneezing

  • Energy loss

  • Loss of appetite

  • Have a cold

  • Fever

Treating Kennel Cough

sick dog

Generally, dogs will recover from kennel cough without any help. It usually takes about three weeks for the disease to heal, although in some cases it can last twice as long. In extreme cases, antibiotics may be given to help kill the bacterial infection. You can also give your dog an anti-inflammatory or cough suppressant to help them stay more comfortable on the road to recovery.

While your dog is recovering from a crate cough, be sure to properly ventilate your home to help maintain a healthy respiratory tract. Also, forget about using collars or straps. Pulling on your dog’s throat can make the condition worse, so switch to a harness for walking.

Prevents Kennel Cough

One of the most effective ways to prevent kennel cough is to vaccinate your dog against it. Many of the infections that can cause kennel cough are covered in your dog’s basic and booster vaccinations that should already be in place. There is also a special vaccine for Bordetella bronchispetica bacteria. While it can prevent kennel cough, there are actually many types of these bacteria, which means that protection against kennel cough is far from guaranteed. However, even if it doesn’t prevent the disease at all, it should at least reduce the symptoms.

The Bordetella vaccine can be given in the form of a nasal vaccine and is safe for dogs as young as three weeks old. It provides about a year of protection and takes four days to apply. Despite the fact that protection against kennel cough is not guaranteed, many kennels and boarding facilities require dogs to have this vaccine in order to live with them.

You may also want to read:

  • Why Is My Dog Coughing? 6 Potential Reasons & When To Act (Veterinary Answers)
  • Why Is My Dog Coughing Like Something Is Stuck in His Throat? (Veterinary Answer)



A kennel cough sounds scary, and it will sound even worse when your beloved dog coughs up lungs. However, it is not as dangerous as it sounds, and in most cases, the disease will go away on its own in just a few weeks. In severe cases, it may be necessary to use antibiotics to help kill the infection, which your veterinarian may prescribe. Vaccines against Bordetella bacteria can be an effective way to prevent this disease, although protection is far from guaranteed.

Related article:

  • 10 Signs Your Dog Is Sick
  • How to Handle a Dog with Separation Anxiety
  • Kennel Cough in Cats: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Featured Image Credit: Igor Normann, Shutterstock

Kennel Cough in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment
Scroll to top