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A Complete Guide To Kennel Cough In Dogs

Kennel Cough In Dogs – The facts, information, and kennel cough prevention. Your dog always has so much fun at the dog park.  It’s great to go and mingle with other dog owners, I mean, it’s so nice for your dog to sniff butts with other dogs. 

Dogs have such a heart-warming way about them when they’re happy and running around, don’t they? But sometimes being around other dogs, like when one of them is sick, is not such a happy and fun time.  At least, not when the effects of something like illness set it.

We’re going to dive deep into the heart of kennel cough and bring everything you didn’t know to something you now know.  We’ll talk about what kennel cough is, where it comes from, how it spreads, prevention, symptoms, and treatment, so stay tuned and let us know in the comments if you’ve ever had to deal with this illness in a dog. 

What is Kennel Cough?

A dog looks through the fence at a kennel.  Good kennel cough prevention is key at large facilities.
A dog looks through the fence at a kennel. Good kennel cough prevention is key at large facilities.

Kennel Cough is an infectious disease affecting the respiratory system.  It is also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis. The disease has a signature characteristic of having a cough with a  honking sound. It is typically caused by an infection of both a bacteria and a virus simultaneously but this may vary.

Where Does Kennel Cough Come From?

Kennel cough is a name for a general condition of respiratory illness in dogs.  The name comes from a disease caused by a bacteria and virus combination (typically) that induces a honking-like cough in dogs.   

How Does Kennel Cough Spread?

If we know how it spreads, we can focus on kennel cough prevention, right? It is spread through the air, saliva and through touching infected objects.  This includes tiny airborne droplets that are projected when a sick dog coughs. If a dog drinks from a bowl and another dog also drinks from the same bowl, the disease can also be transmitted from the tainted water infected by the first dog.  

Because the transmission is airborne, it makes it quite easy to spread in places where dogs are congregated in numbers.  This includes kennels (hence the name of the disease), dog parks, training facilities, groomers and so on. Subsequently, this makes kennel cough prevention difficult, to say the least.

A Sad Dog. Could have Kennel Cough…


The ways to prevent this disease are the same ways to prevent the flu or a common cold.  Remember that this disease is not only transmitted through saliva but is typically airborne.  With that in mind, the best defense is to keep a dog isolated from any sick animals. The bacteria which when combined with a virus, that causes kennel cough can in fact also infect cats, pigs, and other mammals as well.  That being said, isolation is prevention. This is why the name kennel cough came about. Because the virus/bacteria combo only transmits when dogs come in contact with an infected dog or another infected animal.

The airborne extent of the virus may only be short distance due to the need for the virus to be carried in tiny water droplets that are expelled by the coughing action of the infected animal.  It is common sense to assume that the distance with which the virus can be transmitted successfully diminishes exponentially with an increase in distance. In other words, a dog 20 feet away is 20 times less likely to contract the disease than one that is one foot away from the infected source. And a dog 100 feet away would be 1000 times less likely to contract the disease. Or at least, the numbers might be something like that. 

The point is that the cone of possible locations for a water droplet increases exponentially over the further the distance from the source. Imagine an expanding bubble around the infected dog. The bubble would be very concentrated close to the dog and would fade the further it got away from it.


The symptoms start, of course, with a cough.  The typical ‘kennel cough’ sort of cough is a honking sort of cough.  Keep in mind though, that just like humans, dogs can get a cold or influenza which also causes a cough.  However, kennel cough is typically caused by a bacterial and viral combination.  

The other accompanying symptoms include a mild fever, runny nose, lethargy, sneezing, loss of appetite and likely also headache if dogs were able to tell us that.  It’s basically like having the flu as a human. You would feel like crap. And that’s what your dog is going through if they are sick. If they get any worse, go to a vet.  In fact, it’s probably a good idea to go to the vet either way. Just like people, dogs can also get secondary infections which if not dealt with appropriately, could lead to a fatal conclusion.


If your dog gets kennel cough, the first thing to do is give your dog a thorough examination.  Check your dog for fever (101 to 102.5 Fahrenheit is normal, that is 38.3-39.2 degrees Celsius). Check that your dog does not have any colored discharge or has trouble breathing.  If any of these are the case, seek immediate veterinary help for your pooch in case it is something that needs meds.

Next, you will want to isolate the dog and keep it quarantined from other animals for a period of 10-14 days.  This is to limit exposure to the possible bacterial infection from spreading to other dogs or animals.

According to Dr. Erin Rakosky, normally dogs do not need to see a vet if they develop a cough from being with other dogs and most will heal on their own.  However, if any symptoms are as noted above or become severe, then immediate veterinary assistance is important. Medication may be required if the kennel cough winds up being caused by a bacterial infection.

Remember dogs can get a cold just like people can, so we don’t want to panic if they get a bit of a cold from another dog.  However, there is also canine influenza which is the US is H3N8 and H3N2, which can also be the cause of respiratory issues that can easily be confused with kennel cough.  This is another highly contagious illness and thus isolating the dog is important. And as said, should symptoms be severe, bring your pooch to a vet to get antibiotics.

Frequently Asked

How do you treat kennel cough at home?

Treating k.cough at home is relatively straight forward.  If you have other pets, keep the infected animal isolated. Clean and disinfect everything and anything the infected animal has touched including the floor.  Treat as a highly contagious flu if you have other pets. Also, keep your dog hydrated.

The bug should run its course in about 10 days but you’ll want to keep a close eye on the situation and seek a veterinarian if things are beyond your ability to manage.  If the symptoms get worse or worsen, seek immediate veterinary help. Antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian may be needed. Do not attempt to medicate your dog without consulting a veterinarian first. 

What are the first symptoms of kennel cough? (Kennel Cough Prevention?)

The first symptoms of kennel cough are usually cough and other flu-like symptoms.  These include runny nose, mild fever, lethargy and/or sneezing.  

How do you know if your dog has kennel cough?

The only way to know positively if your dog has kennel cough is for your veterinarian to have a bacterial culture and possibly blood tests.  They need to confirm if there is a bacterial infection. Just like in people with pneumonia, bacterial infections can get really bad, very fast so make sure you seek veterinary help if you suspect your dog is getting worse.

Is kennel cough contagious to humans?

Yes, but its really rare.  There have only been a few cases, here and there and many have been circumstantial at best.  Although technically humans can be infected by the bacteria, they would need to have something else wrong, likely, in order for an infection to begin such as an already immuno-compromised individual.

How long is kennel cough contagious?

Kennel cough is typically contagious for up to 10 days but it is recommended that the dog be isolated from other animals for a period of two weeks to be sure.


  1. American Kennel Club – Kennel Cough in Dogs – Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention
  2. Bordetella bronchiseptica PCR test assay data sheet Zoologix, Molecular Diagnostics
  3. U.S. National Library of MedicineHuman infections associated with Bordetella bronchiseptica. – BF Woolfrey and J A Moody
  4. Wikipedia – Kennel Cough

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