Canine Cough (aka Kennel Cough)

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Canine cough (also called “kennel cough”) is a common canine illness often transmitted between dogs who spend long periods together.

By Guest Blogger, Lannie N., writer for Allivet

Canine cough (also called “kennel cough”) is a common canine illness often transmitted between dogs who spend long periods together. It causes worrisome symptoms that often mimic those of other diseases, so you should always take your pet to the vet if you suspect they have kennel cough or any other infection. Here are some things to know about canine cough:

Kennel Cough Symptoms

The symptoms of canine cough are usually easy to spot. The most common sign is a dry, hacking cough that persists over days or even weeks. (For some dogs, this cough makes a “honking” sound.) This cough may be accompanied by other symptoms such as gagging, vomiting, watery eyes, and nasal discharge. Dogs may also experience sneezing, reduction or loss of appetite, low-grade fever, lethargy, or lack of energy. However, it is worth noting that kennel cough often resembles other canine illnesses, such as influenza or Cushing’s disease. Unlike Cushing’s treatment for dogs, dogs that experience fever, lack of energy, and low appetite, may require additional treatment, such as a daily medication like Vetoryl capsules.

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Kennel cough has earned its nickname due to the prevalence of transmission between dogs within close quarters. While roughly 40 percent of kennel cough cases are transmitted within kennels, the remaining 60 percent are passed between dogs in other areas, including parks and other public spaces. However, some dogs get canine cough even though they have never left their own homes. Therefore, while it is a contagious illness transmitted from one dog to the next, the source of your pup’s canine cough may never be clear.


Because canine cough is spread from one dog to another, you should always keep your pet away from other dogs exhibiting signs of illness. Likewise, if you suspect your dog may have kennel cough, keep them away from other dogs until the sickness has cleared up.

If your dog is currently well, your vet can administer a vaccine that prevents kennel cough. This is the most popular method for preventing the illness, though you must remember to update the vaccine every three years (or per your vet’s recommendation).

You can also restrict your dog’s access to communal water bowls, avoid dog parks and other public areas that allow dogs, and never let your pet share toys with other dogs. Additionally, air filters can help keep kennels disease-free.

Kennel Cough Treatment

While kennel cough may sound scary, it is not a life-threatening illness. Some vets do not believe the treatment will help kennel cough, though most will offer antibiotics to fight the Bordetella bacteria. At home, you should make sure your dog drinks enough fluids to avoid dehydration and ensure they rest as much as possible to reduce coughing. When walking your dog, use a harness instead of a collar; collars may irritate the dog’s windpipe and increase coughing.

Most dogs will recover from kennel cough within a few weeks. However, some older dogs or dogs with lower immune systems may take longer. While your dog is recovering, keep an eye out for worsening symptoms, which may indicate a more severe condition, such as pneumonia. If your dog has not recovered within six weeks or seems to be getting worse, you should return to the vet for additional treatment.

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