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What You Need to Know About Kennel Cough

Kennel cough may be the closest canine equivalent to the common cold. Though it’s not usually life-threatening, it’s an unpleasant experience that can leave your pup feeling under the weather for several weeks. 

Learn to recognize the symptoms of kennel cough, and get your dog on the road to recovery. 

kennel cough dog boxerWhat is kennel cough?

Kennel cough can be viral, bacterial, or both simultaneously. The most likely culprit is the bacteria Bordetella bronchispetica, which invades dogs’ tracheas and bronchial tubes. This bacteria can leave your pup open to subsequent viral infections while their immune system battles the Bordetella. Inflammation in the trachea causes a forceful, persistent cough that sounds like a goose’s honk.

As the name suggests, kennel cough is associated with communal living situations. Dogs living in close quarters can easily pass the infection to each other.

What are the symptoms of kennel cough?

Though a distinctive honk-like cough is the most obvious sign, look for other generalized cold symptoms such as:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Low-grade fever
  • Persistent sneezing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Is kennel cough contagious?

Kennel cough is highly contagious. Because it is spread through microscopic respiratory droplets, dogs can readily spread the infection at daycares and dog parks.

Though most dogs will recover on their own in a few weeks, small puppies and dogs with immunodeficiencies can be vulnerable to secondary infections and should take extra precautions. 

kennel cough dog labHow should I treat my dog’s cough?

Isolation is key to keeping your dog’s cough from spreading. Separate your sick pup from other dogs in your household while they recover, and skip any group training sessions or play dates.  

Contact your vet for treatment recommendations based on your dog’s medical history and risk factors. Though kennel cough will typically run its course in 2-3 weeks, it’s important to notice and report any symptoms that linger or get worse over time. 

Protect your dog against Bordetella

While it can’t completely eliminate the risk of kennel cough, vaccinating your pup against Bordetella is a great first step. Your vet may recommend inoculation, especially for dogs who spend a lot of time in communal settings. 

It’s difficult to completely prevent dogs from being exposed to viruses and bacteria, but pet parents can bolster their immune systems by caring for their overall health. A quality diet, regular wellness visits, and good stress management can all help ward off infection naturally.