Primer on Kennel Cough

Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, Ph.D.
and Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS 

Primer on Kennel Cough

Dogs often develop an upper respiratory infection after a stay at the kennel or any place where they come into contact with a lot of other dogs. The term “kennel cough” is used as sort of a catchall phrase for any infectious cough that can spread rapidly from dog to dog.

Kennel cough can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or both. 

The most common bacterium involved is Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is the bacterial component of the kennel cough vaccine.

The most common sign is a persistent, hacking cough. 

Your dog may or may not cough up phlegm. Dogs often have a runny nose or eyes, or other signs of a mild respiratory infection. The condition is rarely serious, and it usually goes away on its own in 7-10 days. However, infected dogs can easily pass the condition on to other dogs.

Treatment consists mostly of tender loving care. 

Your dog needs rest and a good diet, and you should encourage your dog to drink water. Your veterinarian may prescribe a cough suppressant to allow your dog to get some rest. Antibiotics may be needed if the infection is bacterial. In general, affected dogs are not hospitalized to prevent passing the infection on to other dogs.

Categories: ConditionsKennel Cough

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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