What Is Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough is a fairly common respiratory disease found only in dogs. 

Is Kennel Cough Contagious?

Yes.  Kennel Cough is caused by an airborne virus which is highly contagious.  It is not unusual for all dogs in the same household to become infected because micro-organisms are present in the aerosol produced from the coughing.  Such an attack is most likely to occur when a dog spends time in close quarters with many other dogs.  Dogs that attend dog shows, groomers, veterinarian clinics, boarding kennels or travel frequently have a higher risk of developing kennel cough than do dogs that stay at home most of the time.  The disease can spread rapidly from one dog to another but does not affect humans.


What Are The Symptoms Of Kennel Cough?

The most common symptom of Kennel Cough is a harsh and dry cough which can be quite loud and forceful; sometimes inducing dry heaves or retching.  The dog sounds as if there is something caught in the throat and the coughing is an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge the object.  The majority of dogs with this disease continue to eat, sleep, play and act normally.  It is worthwhile to note that kennel cough may have potentially serious respiratory complications for VERY young and VERY old dogs.

How Long Does Typical Case Of Kennel Cough Last?

The incubation period is about 8-10 days, meaning your dog will not display symptoms of illness for about 8-10 days following exposure to the virus.  Having a strong immune system is the best way to avoid if/when your dog is exposed to the virus.  This is why, not every dog in the kennel (or house) will get it if there is an outbreak.  While the cough may sound serious, this disease is often harmless and dogs recover uneventfully in a week or so.

Is There a Treatment For Kennel Cough?

If your dog does develop Kennel Cough symptoms, DON’T PANIC!!!  The way this illness operates is analogous to the common cold that we humans sometimes catch; simply put: it must run its course.  There is no magic pill or cure, but there are many ways to treat and ease the symptoms.  Cough suppressants can be used to control the dogs cough and antibiotics may be necessary for stubborn infections or try to stop the spread of the bacteria in multiple dog households.  The uncomplicated form of the disease usually lasts for approximately 10 days after symptoms occur.  Complicated Kennel Cough, usually a combination of virus’ and bacteria, should always be treated with antibiotics and may last 14-20 days after symptoms occur.

How can I Prevent My Dog From Getting Kennel Cough?

The best prevention is not to expose your dogs to other dogs, especially if they are puppies, geriatric or have other illnesses.  However, dog socialization is frequently necessary and can also be beneficial for your dog.  If you have more than one dog in your household, and one of them develops Kennel Cough, you can try to keep that one isolated, to minimize exposure to your other dog(s).  However, by the time your dog is symptomatic, the virus has probably already been “shared” with your other pets or any other dogs with which yours has had contact recently.  Vaccination alone cannot protect your animal from contacting this disease.  There is always some risk if your dog comes into contact with infected animals.  Your best weapon against Kennel Cough may be your own knowledge of this disease.

Isn’t My Dog Fully Protected Against Kennel Cough By His Vaccination?

Although there is a vaccine (Bordetella) for Kennel Cough, it is often not effective in preventing infection.  The most likely explanation for this is that there are many strains and mutations of the virus out there.  Therefore, it is a hit or miss whether the vaccine used on your dog will be the right one for the strain with which your dog comes into contact with.  This is similar to the “flu shot” for people; each year a vaccine is developed based on which strain(s) are suspected to be most prevalent.  It is a good idea to vaccinate a dog who will be exposed to a large number of other dogs, such as at shows, obedience classes or the classic cause – when left in kennels.  Vaccines usually provide some protection in as little as 3 days, although the injectable version of the vaccine may provide longer immunity.

Note: Any vaccine takes days to weeks to stimulate the dog’s protective immunity to the disease.  Vaccinating the dog the day it is exposed to the disease may not be protective.  If you plan to board your dog, to protect it from exposure, remember to vaccinate a few weeks prior to potential exposure to allow full protective immunity to build up.