Kennel cough is a highly infectious respiratory disease that affects dogs. It’s called “kennel cough” because it’s so contagious…one dog at a kennel with canine infectious tracheobronchitis can get every other dog at the kennel sick. It’s commonly found and transmitted in places dogs congregate like boarding facilities, at the groomer, doggy daycare, and even the dog park.

bordetella dogs

Who Gets Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough can affect almost any dog. Since it’s transmitted through both airborne droplets and/or physical contact, dogs of any age can catch it.

Puppies are particularly vulnerable to kennel cough because they have not yet built up immunity to the bacteria and viruses that cause it. Senior dogs are also at a higher risk for complications from kennel cough, as their immune systems are not as strong as they once were.

Dogs with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, or diabetes are also more likely to develop serious complications from kennel cough. Dogs that are immunocompromised, whether from illness or medication, are also more likely to get and develop complications from kennel cough.

Dogs frequently socializing with other dogs are also at a higher risk, since they’re more likely to be exposed to kennel cough. If you take your dog to the park, to doggy daycare, or to board them while you’re on vacation, they’re more likely to catch the disease.

Signs of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough isn’t an aggressive disease in that dogs who have it don’t immediately become violently ill. It gradually gets worse, and its effects can build slowly over a period of several days or weeks before any symptoms become noticeable.

Kennel Cough Incubation Period

The incubation period for kennel cough is usually about 3-5 days but can be as long as 10 days. This means that a dog can be infected with the disease and not show any symptoms for up to 10 days.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

How can you tell that your dog has kennel cough? A few of the most noticeable symptoms include:

  • A strong, loud cough, sometimes described as a “honking” sound;
  • Typical viral symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, or red eyes;
  • Lethargy or a general lack of energy;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Low-grade fever.

Have you noticed some of these symptoms in your dog? Don't hesitate to ask Online Vet. Maybe you're just too cautious, but otherwise, you'll get expert advice on the further steps and treatment for your pet.

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Treating Kennel Cough

If your dog has any coughing symptoms, it’s important to speak to a veterinarian to rule out serious conditions like canine influenza or distemper. If your dog has kennel cough, your vet will likely diagnose him based solely on a visual and auditory assessment in-person.

Smiling dog

Treatment is usually relatively mild and based on rest. Most vets recommend keeping your dog’s activity level low for at least a week or two while he regains his strength. Pet owners might be advised to switch to a harness rather than a collar while their dog’s trachea recovers from damage caused by the disease to make walks more comfortable.

In the most serious cases, vets may recommend nebulizers or vaporizers to help improve a dog’s oxygen levels and even to administer medication. Antibiotics may be prescribed in order to prevent a secondary infection from forming.

Preventing Kennel Cough in Dogs

Since kennel cough is transmitted through contact, one way to prevent your dog from contracting it is to limit her exposure to other, possibly-infected dogs. That solution isn’t always viable, however, if you regularly take your dog to a boarding facility, to a groomer, or to a park where dogs are allowed.

Kennel Cough Vaccine

There are several vaccines available that can help prevent kennel cough. These vaccines are usually given as a nasal spray or an intramuscular injection.

Some vaccines require multiple doses for full protection, so be sure to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations. If your dog will be boarded or attending doggy daycare, ask if the facility requires proof of vaccination against kennel cough.

Vaccinating your dog against Bordetella is the absolute best way to keep them from getting infected since Bordetella is the most common cause of kennel cough. There are, however, a number of other infection agents responsible for developing kennel cough which is why it’s important to monitor your dog for any unusual changes in behavior.

Kennel Cough Vaccine Side Effects

Most dogs will have no reaction to the vaccine at all. Some may sneeze a bit or have a runny nose for a day or so after getting the vaccine. A very small number of dogs may have a more severe allergic reaction, which could include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or hives.

These reactions are rare and usually happen within minutes to hours after getting the vaccine. If you think your dog is having a severe reaction to the vaccine, take them to the vet right away.


What does kennel cough sound like?

The sound of kennel cough can vary depending on the severity of the illness, but typically it sounds like a harsh, dry cough. It can sound like your dog is hacking up a hairball or trying to clear their throat.

How long does kennel cough last?

The duration of tracheobronchitis in dogs can vary, but it is typically a relatively short-lived illness. Most dogs will recover within 2-3 weeks without any lasting effects.

However, some dogs may develop a more severe form of the disease that can last for several months and cause chronic coughing and other respiratory problems.

What is Bordetella in dogs? Is Bordetella kennel cough?

Bordetella is a bacterium that can cause kennel cough in dogs. Although most cases of kennel cough are caused by bordetella, some are caused by other agents, including canine adenovirus, canine parainfluenza virus, and mycoplasma canis.

Is kennel cough contagious?

Yes, kennel cough is highly contagious. It is most commonly spread through contact with an infected animal or contaminated surfaces, so it is important to keep your pup away from other dogs that may be sick.

How long is kennel cough contagious for?

The disease is most contagious during the first week of illness, but can remain so for up to three weeks.

The length of time that kennel cough is contagious depends on the cause of the cough. If the cause is viruses, the cough will usually be contagious for 10 to 14 days. If the cause is bacteria, the cough can be contagious for up to 21 days. In very rare cases, some dogs may continue to shed the bacteria for up to six weeks.

**How long is kennel cough contagious after starting antibiotics?

The length of time that kennel cough is contagious after starting antibiotics depends on the individual dog and the severity of their illness. In general, most dogs will start to feel better within a few days and will no longer be contagious after about two weeks.

**Is kennel cough deadly? Can kennel cough kill a dog?

No, kennel cough is not deadly. It can, however, lead to pneumonia if left untreated, which can be deadly.

**What to feed a dog with kennel cough?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to feed a dog with kennel cough will vary depending on the severity of the illness and the dog's individual needs. However, in general, it is important to make sure that the dog has plenty of fresh water available at all times, and to feed them small, frequent meals of easy-to-digest food.

**Can my dog get kennel cough even when vaccinated?

It is possible for a dog to get kennel cough after being vaccinated with Bordetella, but it is not common. The vaccine does not provide protection against other bacteria and viruses that cause kennel cough, so it is possible for vaccinated dogs to still contract the disease.