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Dog Kennel Cough | Signs Symptoms and Treatments

June 17, 2021

Dog Kennel Cough | Signs Symptoms and Treatments

Is Your Dog's Coughing a Sign of Kennel Cough?

Canine infectious tracheobronchitis, commonly known as kennel cough, is a highly contagious condition found in dogs. This respiratory infection affects a dog's airway causing worrisome symptoms, but is rarely serious.

Kennel cough is very similar to human colds, which are caused by a variety of viruses. Even though most dogs recover without treatment, those with compromised immune systems or very old or very young animals may become seriously ill and require immediate medical attention. This complex disease is caused by several different viruses or bacteria and can begin to affect a dog within five to ten days following exposure.

Kennel Cough Symptoms

Main symptoms of kennel cough in dogs are:

  • A persistent cough that sounds like the dog is choking or gagging
  • Retching or gagging
  • A foamy white liquid is expelled from the throat

Some dogs make a choking, coughing sound when the sneeze, typically called a reverse-sneeze, but the sound is different and should not be mistaken for a kennel cough that is more of a harsh, honking sound, similar to a goose honking.

When the cough is accompanied by lethargy, appetite loss, or extreme nasal discharge it may indicate a more serious condition such as pneumonia. 

Coughing in dogs usually eases or goes away within a few days, but sometimes can last as long as three weeks. If the cough persists past that time, sounds more serious, or there are other symptoms that present themselves along with the coughing or choking, then it is best to take the dog to a vet to determine the cause of the cough.

Cause of Kennel Cough in Dogs

Like the name kennel cough implies, most dogs get kennel cough after visiting a kennel. A dog-boarding kennel is normally a safe and secure place for your pet to stay while you are on vacation or at times when you may not be able to have your pet with you. 

Most of the time, a boarding kennel facility will be a member of the boarding kennel association, meaning that the facility has been provided with proper training and direction and will adhere to strict guidelines in the quality care of your pet. 

Part of their procedure performed by the kennel should be to check that all dogs that come to the kennel are healthy. However, this is not always the case and some dog kennels and shelters are overcrowded and can keep animals in poorly ventilated areas that are cold and dusty.

If the kennel does not follow proper health procedures animals in their care may contract an illness by inhaling virus particles into their respiratory tract. That is why it is so important to check out the kennel and make sure that the facility is clean and is setup to take the best care of your pup.


However, even the best kennels can sometimes miss accepting a sick dog into the facility. Given the tight interaction between all the dogs, it is quite possible for a sick dog to pass the illness or cough to another.

Dogs that have been exposed to adverse conditions or other infected dogs should receive comprehensive testing. Most vets will do a blood tests and may request for X-rays to determine the severity of the kennel cough symptoms before beginning treatment.

Canine Cough Treatment and Prevention

A veterinarian will observe a dog to determine the severity of the cough before recommending a course of treatment. If the symptoms worsen, a veterinarian may prescribe an antibiotic if the blood test reveals a bacterial infection. Sometimes dogs recover without any treatment.

Natural treatments, such as our Breathe Easy Remedy for Dogs, can aid in reducing the severity of the cough, reduce chest congestion, and aid the dog’s natural healing.

In addition, vaccines can help prevent the development of this condition. A veterinarian can administer a vaccination before a dog is exposed to situations with extreme risk factors for contracting a cough. There are three forms of this vaccine available. It can be injected, given orally or be administered as a nasal mist. This vaccine is not guaranteed to prevent all forms of the disease, but it is effective for most.

Since this cough is so highly contagious, it is best to limit contact with other animals that may be infected. 

If you have other pets in the house, keep the sick dog in a separate area and don't let them eat from the same dog food bowl. Keep the dog away from other animals at a dog park and don't take them to a crowded play area with other dogs.

If you need to leave your dog at a kennel, check to make sure the dog hotel or boarding facility is well kept, clean and follows all the protocols. Because dogs are typically confined in close quarters, most boarding facilities require proof of annual vaccinations before any dogs are accepted. This minimizes the risk of dogs contracting kennel cough symptoms from infected dogs.

Kennel cough is not a serious condition for healthy dogs, so keep your pup's immune system strong and healthy to make any illness easier to overcome. If you notice your pet has signs of kennel cough, don't worry - just watch them for other symptoms until you can get to a vet, and begin treatment as soon as possible.


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