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Kennel cough in dogs is a highly contagious respiratory disease. But what causes kennel cough, and how can you prevent your dog from getting it? Learn more about kennel cough in dogs to help keep your pet healthy.

How Does Kennel Cough in Dogs Spread?

The bacterium that most commonly causes kennel cough is called Bordetella bronchiseptica, and you might even hear people refer to kennel cough by simply calling it “Bordetella.” Dogs commonly contract kennel cough at places where other dogs congregate. Places like boarding kennels, dog daycare facilities, dog parks, dog training groups, and dog shows, or even your local dog-friendly brewery or cafe. Dogs can spread kennel cough to one another through airborne droplets, direct contact (like touching noses), or contaminated surfaces (including water or food bowls).

Dachshund with its owner getting checked by a veterinarian.
Alexander Raths via Getty Images

Kennel cough is highly treatable in most healthy adult dogs, but it can be more severe in puppies younger than 6 months old or in dogs who are immunocompromised due to other health conditions.

What Are the Symptoms of Kennel Cough?

If your dog has kennel cough, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

Although kennel cough is easily treatable in healthy dogs, Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM, a columnist for AKC Family Dog, explains that it’s important to report any coughing symptom to your veterinarian because it could be a sign of a more serious disease.

Beagle dog is sick From infection
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“The canine distemper virus and canine influenza virus both start off with symptoms nearly identical to kennel cough,” Dr. Fitzgerald says. Other conditions that can cause coughing in dogs include a collapsing trachea, bronchitis, asthma, and even heart disease.

How Is Kennel Cough in Dogs Treated?

Typically, mild cases of kennel cough are treated with a week or so of rest and supportive care, similarly to how you’d treat your own common cold. But your dog’s veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infection, as well as cough suppressant medication to ease the symptoms and help your dog (and you) sleep.

“Nebulizers and vaporizers utilizing inhaled antibiotics or bronchodilators have been reported to be beneficial but are usually not prescribed,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. Talk with your veterinarian for treatment recommendations.

Also, it’s helpful for owners to use a dog harness rather than a dog collar to walk a dog with kennel cough. Irritation of the tracheal area can aggravate the cough and possibly even cause damage. If you have a household with multiple pets and one shows signs of a cough, chances are all dogs in the home have been exposed. If your dog normally visits a dog daycare while you’re at work, you’ll need to keep them home to help limit the spread to other dogs.

Can Kennel Cough in Dogs Be Prevented?

A vaccine for kennel cough is available to inoculate dogs against the bordetella bacterium, the most common cause kennel cough. Dogs who are frequently boarded, visit dog daycare, compete in canine sports, or otherwise are exposed to groups of dogs may benefit from the vaccine.

Many training, boarding, and daycare facilities require proof of vaccination. The vaccine is available in oral, intranasal, and injectable forms, and depending on the form, it is usually given in two doses two to four weeks apart, followed by a booster every six months to a year.

Bulldog puppy getting a check-up at the vet.
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Although most cases of kennel cough are caused by the bordetella bacterium, some are caused by other germs, like canine adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus, canine respiratory coronavirus, and mycoplasma. So the bordetella vaccine on its own may not prevent your dog from catching kennel cough.

If you notice your pet coughing, or if you plan to introduce your dog to a group of new dogs, speak with your veterinarian to see if the kennel cough vaccination makes sense for your dog.

This article is intended solely as general guidance, and does not constitute health or other professional advice. Individual situations and applicable laws vary by jurisdiction, and you are encouraged to obtain appropriate advice from qualified professionals in the applicable jurisdictions. We make no representations or warranties concerning any course of action taken by any person following or otherwise using the information offered or provided in this article, including any such information associated with and provided in connection with third-party products, and we will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages that may result, including but not limited to economic loss, injury, illness or death.

Related article: What You Need To Know About Dog Bronchitis
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