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Kennel cough

Kennel cough is NOT only contracted when your dog is placed in kennels. In fact, it can be easily picked up when WALKING YOUR DOG in the park or whenever your dog is likely to come into contact with another dog that may be infected.

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Common questions about kennel cough

What is kennel cough?

Infectious tracheobronchitis, canine cough or kennel cough, is a canine respiratory infection caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine parainfluenza virus, pathogens which attack the cilia lining, the respiratory tract and cause inflammation of the upper airway.

This illness causes irritation of the airways and a dry cough, and can make your dog susceptible to secondary infections. Although more rife in the summer, your dog could contract kennel cough at any time.

Why is it called kennel cough?

The name kennel cough comes from the fact this infection is extremely contagious and can quickly spread through places where dogs are in close quarters, such as kennels, and infect every dog.

How is kennel cough spread?

When an infected dog coughs it releases kennel cough aerosols which can be breathed in by other dogs. Kennel cough is also transmitted by direct contact with an infected dog, or by sharing contaminated objects such as water or food bowls or toys. Even a walk in the park could be risky if your dog is not up to date with it’s vaccinations.

Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment & prevention of kennel cough

Symptoms of kennel cough

If your dog has kennel cough, it will have a persistent, non-productive cough that will sound like they are trying to clear their throat or hack something up. The cough could also be described as a deep honking noise.  Symptoms usually appear 3 – 10 days after being exposed to kennel cough and can be made worse by exercise or excitement.

Diagnosis of kennel cough

If you are concerned that your dog may have contracted kennel cough you should make an appointment with your vet straight away. There is no specific test for the infection, your vet will want to rule out other possibilities with the same symptoms such as heart disease, fungal and parasitic infections like heartworm disease, a collapsing trachea, and cancer.

Dogs that have been acquired from a pet shelter, pet store, breeder or dogs that have recently been placed in boarding facilities, have attended training classes, dog shows or dog parks are considered at risk of exposure. Your vet will examine your dog, discuss their history with you and determine whether kennel cough is suspected.

Kennel cough treatment

Severity of kennel cough symptoms can differ, as can the treatment prescribed. A mild case of kennel cough is often left to ‘run its course’, much like a human cold. The infection will be self-limiting and so no medication is required. It’s recommend that a harness rather than a neck collar (to avoid neck irritation) and using a humidifier can help.

More serious cases will be treated with oral antibiotics and sometimes cough suppressants. Symptoms should go away after 7 – 14 days, however if they don’t improve, you should re-visit your vet so they can re-examine your dog and decide what action to take next.

Occasionally, kennel cough can lead to pneumonia so it’s important to keep an eye on your pet and take them back to your vet immediately if any of the following occur: listlessness, lethargy, breathing difficulties, loss of appetite, green nasal discharge or a productive cough.


Kennel cough can be prevented through a commitment to lifelong vaccinations. One injection each year can prevent your dog from catching this irritating and potentially harmful and contagious disease.  Puppies with immature immune systems and unvaccinated dogs are most at risk. Although vaccinations cannot always be 100% effective, your pet stands the best chance of avoiding this disease through preventative measures. Help to keep your dog and local dogs in your area safe by vaccinating against kennel cough.

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