Kennel Cough: What It Is and How to Treat It

Dog with mouth open.

A dry, hacking cough that can sound as if your dog has something stuck in his or her throat is the hallmark symptom of an infectious disease known as kennel cough. Although rarely severe, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and have your canine companion evaluated by a veterinarian right away if you suspect that he or she has kennel cough. 

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease that causes a dog’s trachea and bronchioles to become inflamed. Many different bacteria and viruses can cause kennel cough, the most common of which is Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is why you’ll hear the kennel cough vaccine referred to as the Bordetella vaccine. 

Dogs of all ages are susceptible to kennel cough, but puppies younger than 6 months old and dogs with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of severe infection.

How Does Kennel Cough Spread?

Healthy dogs can contract kennel cough by inhaling bacteria or virus particles from an infected dog. The virus also spreads when infected dogs cough or sneeze, share water and food bowls, or share toys. 

Certain locations can increase your dog’s chances of being exposed to the viruses and bacteria that cause kennel cough, including:

  • Crowded, poorly ventilated buildings such as kennels and animal shelters
  • Doggie daycares
  • Training facilities
  • Groomers
  • Dog parks
  • Dog shows

Know the Symptoms

A persistent, dry, forceful cough is the primary symptom of kennel cough, but other signs that your dog isn’t feeling well may be present, including: 

  • Nighttime coughing that keeps you and your dog awake
  • Retching that produces white foam
  • Runny nose, sneezing, or eye discharge

Severe symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Listlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble breathing

Kennel Cough Treatments

Your dog’s treatment plan will depend upon the severity of the disease. Dogs typically recover from mild cases with rest, good nutrition, and plenty of hydration. Additionally, keeping your dog in a room with a humidifier can help. To keep your dog more comfortable while he or she is recovering, your dog’s veterinarian can prescribe antibiotics to target the Bordetella bacteria and a cough suppressant to reduce the severity of your dog’s cough. 

Severe cases of kennel cough may require hospitalization with IV fluids, oxygen therapy (if needed), and antibiotics. 

Kennel Cough Vaccine

Disease prevention is an important aspect of the pet wellness plans at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates. As an AAHA-accredited hospital, we follow AAHA guidelines for canine vaccinations. The Bordetella vaccine is considered a non-core vaccine, which means it’s administered only to dogs whose lifestyle puts them at risk. 

If your dog is routinely exposed to other dogs, the Bordetella vaccine may be beneficial. At every pet wellness visit, your Beverly Hills Veterinary Associate doctor will discuss your dog’s lifestyle with you and help you choose the vaccines that are best for your pet.

Kennel cough is extremely contagious. If you suspect that your dog has the condition, please keep him or her away from other animals and contact us right away.