Kennel Cough

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a condition affecting dogs or canines. It affects the respiratory system causing inflammation and formation of respiratory secretions. The condition is caused by both viruses and bacteria. Viral causes include canine adenovirus, canine distemper, canine parainfluenza, Orthomyxoviridae or canine respiratory coronavirus. Bacteria causes include Bordetella bronchiseptica.

The condition is known as kennel cough because of its rapid transmission in dogs when they live in kennels. However, kennel cough is still contagious among dogs even when they are not contained in kennels.

The transmission of kennel cough is through airborne and droplet transmission when canines cough or sneeze. Direct contact may also be possible through infected areas such as toys, ground and sidewalks.

Kennel cough is highly contagious. However, it is considered a mild to moderate disease when it affects dogs, and is considered similar to influenza as occurs in humans. It affects the upper respiratory tract of canines. Other animals such as rabbits, cats, and birds may also suffer from similar conditions.

Kennel cough is often a symptom of other underlying diseases such as periodontal disease, heart conditions, parasites, heart worm, pneumonia, allergies and throat growths in dogs.

Kennel Cough Symptoms & Signs

Some typical symptoms are:

  • Coughing – This is the classic symptom of kennel cough. Some dogs also exhibit the expectoration of secretions especially when it is caused by a bacterial infection. Coughing is the mechanism of the body to remove pathogens inside the respiratory tract and also a sign of irritation of the throat.
  • Sneezing – Frequent sneezing may also be observed. Like coughing, it is also a protective mechanism of the respiratory tract to expel infection from the lungs.
  • Retching or gagging – Severe coughing may lead to the stimulation of the gag reflex, which may be voluntarily done by dogs to free their throat from irritation.
  • Vomiting – Dogs also exhibit vomiting, which may include intense vomiting of all foods taken in. Dogs may experience loss of appetite because of frequent vomiting.
  • Fever – This may be a sign of infection. Some dogs may exhibit this symptom and some may not. Bacterial infection commonly causes a high grade fever in dogs.
  • Snoring – Respiratory affectation also leads to difficulty in breathing. This can be seen by the dog always assuming a sniffing position in order to inhale more air.

These symptoms are the basis for the diagnosis of the condition. A complete exposure history may also be needed. These symptoms usually arise within two to three days after exposure to an infected canine.

How long does Kennel Cough Last?

Kennel cough usually lasts from one to two weeks. Presence of kennel cough for more than 3 to 4 weeks is best dealt with by taking the pet to an animal hospital for a series of tests, and for proper treatment because this may indicate a more serious condition. The disease can also have a re-break when the dog becomes well and asymptomatic. However, when the immune system of the dog is lowered such as in the presence of stress, the symptoms usually reoccur.

What does Kennel Cough Sound like?

Kennel cough usually sounds like a dry, harsh, hacking cough. Persistent hacking can damage the trachea of dogs when it occurs. Persistent hacking can also cause the dog to vomit.

Treatment for Kennel Cough

Treatment for kennel cough involves the eradication of the disease as well as relieving the signs and symptoms. Typical treatments include:

  • Antibiotics – Kennel cough caused by bacterial infection such as Bordetella is treated with antibiotics to kill the microorganism. Antibiotics may take different forms. Oral tablets can be given to adult canines and liquid antibiotics may be given to puppies. The dose of the antibiotic therapy depends on the weight, age and severity of the symptoms.
  • Cough Suppressants – Kennel cough that is dry and non-productive may also be treated with cough suppressants to relive the throat irritation. This also prevents dogs from being disturbed by coughing during sleeping. Cough suppressants are usually over the counter, but it is better to consult a veterinarian for proper dosage and timing. Prolonged cough suppressant use should be avoided because it may lead to non-observance of more serious conditions involving the respiratory system.
  • Mucolytic and expectorants – Just like humans, dogs also need mucolytic and expectorants to clear the airways in cases of productive coughs. Robitussin is an example of this type of medication that can be given to dogs.
  • Bronchodilators – Bronchodilators are medications that dilate the airways of dogs and prevent spasms of the airway. An example of this drug is terbutaline sulfate. Bronchodilators help canines breathe easier by dilating the airways.
  • Vitamin supplementation – Vitamins help dogs recover from kennel cough and also boost their immune system to prevent other infections. Vitamin C can be used, administering 500mg, two to three times a day.

Home remedies for Kennel Cough

These include:

  • Echinacea – Echinacea (also known as purple coneflower) helps in strengthening the immune system of dogs
  • Honey – Giving one to two teaspoons of honey per day helps soothe the dog’s throat.
  • Use of humidifiers – Keeping the air moist also helps dogs breathe easier. You can place a humidifier in areas where the dog stays.
  • Garlic pills – A 500mg garlic pill a day helps dogs strengthen their immune system.
  • Chicken soup – Chicken soup is also beneficial for the relief of throat irritation in dogs.

Kennel Cough Vaccine

Vaccination against kennel cough is also available to prevent the condition from occurring. There are vaccines against specific viruses and bacteria that can be administered through injections or inhalation. Vaccine side-effects include pain at the injection point as well as triggering of short-term coughing. Vaccines are most often recommended for high risk dogs such as those going to other places or staying in doggy day care. Vaccination cost is usually affordable, but it requires more than one dose.

Kennel Cough vaccination in dogs Kennel Cough Symptoms, Treatment, Vaccine and Home Remedies

Kennel Cough vaccination in dogs

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Is Kennel Cough Contagious?

Kennel cough is very contagious in canines, even after the symptoms have disappeared. However, it usually does not spread to humans.

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4 thoughts on “Kennel Cough

  • 15/05/2012 at 07:52

    I observed my dog to be coughing every time she gets a bath. It lasts for few hours then goes away without any interventions. Is that considered kennel cough? Do I need to give her any medications for that if it normally goes away? Thanks a lot.

    • 17/05/2012 at 20:32

      I think that is not kennel cough because it only occurs after bathing. It may be that your dog is not fully dried so the immune system gets low. Make sure to visit your vet to make sure that your pet is not experiencing any symptoms. Furthermore, you have to make sure to let your dog bath in warm water and dry him or her thoroughly.

  • 15/09/2012 at 23:02

    That was very helpfull. Thanks

  • 20/09/2012 at 20:45

    My pomranian, 11 yoa, dry coughs a lot. She also snores when sleeping. Has an abnormal heart beat (on medication) and bad teeth. Waiting until her heart beats normally before having teeth removed. Does this sound like kennel cough? If so, what is the best recommendation for her? Thank you.


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