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Kennel Cough: Symptoms & Treatments

What Is Kennel Cough? Symptoms & Treatment | BetterVet

If you have ever made arrangements for your furry friend to spend a few days at a boarding facility, there is a high probability you may have been asked for proof of vaccination against kennel cough. Like most dog parents, the idea of putting their canine companions at risk can be enough to reconsider canceling your vacation and the boarding stay.

But before you do that, it's important to get all your facts straight about kennel cough. Knowing what kennel cough is will help you decide whether you should vaccinate your dog against the illness or hide your furry friend from the world. 


What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a term that's used to encompass a high number of highly transmissible respiratory illnesses. The scientific name for kennel cough is canine infectious tracheobronchitis. Like human flu viruses,kennel cough can spread from one dog to another through direct contact and aerosol droplets. It can also spread through contact with contaminated surfaces like kennel runs, toys, water, and food bowls. 


Symptoms of Kennel Cough

Your canine companion can't tell you how they feel, which is why as a dog parent, it's important to rely on your dog's body language. During the early stages of an illness, your pet may not yet show obvious symptoms, but will just seem “off.” This is no different with kennel cough for dogs. But because you know your furry friend, it is possible to pick up several subtle changes in their actions and personalities. One classic kennel cough symptom you should watch out for is a forceful, dry, persistent cough, which may be followed by retching or gagging. The cough may even hurt your furry friend’s throat. And while the cough may sound horrible, try not to panic when your dog starts to show this symptom. Sometimes, the cough might disappear on its own after a few weeks. But, it is important to have a vet check out your dog to rule out any other illnesses.


Other kennel cough common symptoms include:

  • Eye discharge

  • Runny nose

  • Low fever

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy


In rare cases, kennel cough can lead to a more serious illness like pneumonia. A disease like pneumonia may develop because of your dog's weakened immune system.

While some dogs could present the above symptoms, some may not. Some furry friends may be carriers of kennel cough but not exhibit the symptoms. They can still pass along the infectious organisms, however. As such, a dog may look safe for your furry friend to interact with but still be a kennel cough carrier. There's not much you can do in such cases to identify if a dog is a carrier.


What are the Causes of Kennel Cough?

Like human colds can be caused by different viruses, kennel cough has various causes. But the main bacteria and viruses that contribute to or cause the development of kennel cough are:

Canine Parainfluenza: It is also referred to as CPIV, and it is one of the common viruses that causes kennel cough. This virus is highly contagious. The symptoms can vary depending on your dog's immunity, age, or if they have an existing illness.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica: This is one of the most common bacterial causes of canine cough. These bacteria can cause your dog's upper respiratory tract to become inflamed.

The common places your dog can contract kennel cough in areas where lots of dogs congregate, like training centers, boarding facilities, dog shows, dog parks, and doggie daycare centers. Factors like poor ventilation or air quality and the stress of being at a boarding facility make dogs more vulnerable to contracting kennel cough.


How is Kennel Cough Diagnosed?

It's important to note that there isn't a single test to help diagnose kennel cough. However, a diagnosis can be made if your dog has kennel cough symptoms and has been in contact with many other dogs within the disease incubation period. But to determine the exact bacteria and virus, swabs may be taken. If the vet suspects other conditions or complications, they can use radiographs to assess your dog's condition.

Your veterinarian will be able to determine if your dog has kennel cough or something more serious, like canine distemper. This is a dangerous and contagious disease that's caused by a different virus. This disease attacks dogs and puppies' gastrointestinal, nervous, and respiratory symptoms. It can be transmitted through shared water and food dishes, the air, or from a mother to her puppies in the womb. 


How to Treat Kennel Cough 

The most common mode of kennel cough treatment we have today is antibiotics. Ideally, the vet gives antibiotics based on the type of virus your furry friend has. Anti-inflammatories and cough suppressants may also be prescribed to help make your dog more comfortable as they recover.


Home Remedies for Dog Cough

Apart from medication, you can give your dog several home remedies for kennel cough. However, before you administer any home remedy, make sure that you consult a vet. Some home remedies that may help with your dog’s recovery  include:

  • Add probiotics to your furry friend's diet 

Apart from being excellent for digestive and oral health, probiotics can help support your dog's immune system as they recover from kennel cough.

  • Honey

Honey will help ease the nasal discharge that comes with kennel cough. Try giving your dog a tablespoon of honey twice a day.

  • Cinnamon

Cinnamon has antiviral properties that can help in treating kennel cough.

At BetterVet, we care about the health of your canine companion. Our BetterVet team comprises vet techs, caretakers, doctors, and nurses who support BetterVet pet parents every step of the way. From your first consultation, you get to feel what it means to become part of the  BetterVet family. By becoming a member of our BetterVet community, you get to give your furry friend the best vet care possible through our team of health care experts.Our home visits ensure that your pet receives the medical attention they need without having to leave the comfort of their home. Your pet’s health and happiness is our #1 priority! 



Can cats get kennel cough, or only dogs?

While kennel cough is much less common in cats than in dogs, it is possible for cats to catch the highly contagious illness too. 


How long does kennel cough usually last?

While kennel cough symptoms usually appear 3-10 days after your pet is exposed, a healthy pet will generally recover within 3-4 weeks without vaccination. Puppies and senior pets may take longer to get better, sometimes up to 6 weeks or longer. With proper treatment, your pet should be feeling a lot better within a few days. If symptoms do not seem to be improving, you should reach out to your veterinary care team.

 Is kennel cough contagious to other pets?

Yes, kennel cough is highly contagious and can be transmitted through the air and in saliva. This is why bordetella is often referred to as “kennel cough” as without a vaccination, your pet is at risk of catching the virus any time they are exposed to other dogs or cats, like in the case of a boarding facility.

Is kennel cough contagious to humans?

Although it is possible to contract kennel cough from your sick dog or cat, it’s extremely unlikely and typically in those with immunodeficiencies. If you have any concerns that you may be experiencing symptoms of kennel cough, you should contact your physician right away. 

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