Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

What is Kennel Cough in Dogs? Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

If your dog has a dry, non-productive cough, it may be suffering from what is commonly called kennel cough. Our veterinarians in San Diego share some essential information about this highly contagious disease and what to do if you notice its symptoms in your dog.

What is kennel cough?

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, also known as kennel cough, is a common respiratory infection in dogs. It can be caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria or the canine parainfluenza virus. The bacteria attack the lining of the dog's respiratory tract, leading to inflammation of the inner airways.

Although this condition is not usually serious for healthy dogs, it can lead to more severe infections in young puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with a weakened immune system.

The name "kennel cough" comes from the highly contagious nature of this condition, which spreads rapidly in places where pets are in close contact, such as kennels, dog parks, and multi-dog homes. Kennel cough is transmitted when dogs come into contact with the droplets released through the cough of an infected dog. This can occur through direct contact with the infected dog or with objects on which the infected droplets have landed, such as dog toys, bowls, cages, or blankets.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

The most recognizable symptom of kennel cough is a strong, honking cough. Other signs include:

  • Runny nose: Your dog may have nasal discharge.
  • Sneezing: Frequent sneezing is a common symptom.
  • Lethargy: Affected dogs might appear unusually tired or lack energy.
  • Loss of appetite: Some dogs may eat less or refuse food altogether.
  • Fever: Mild fever can accompany the cough.
If your dog exhibits these symptoms, it's essential to consult a veterinarian in San Diego to confirm the diagnosis and start appropriate treatment.

How Vets Diagnose Kennel Cough

Diagnosing kennel cough is essentially a process of elimination. Many more serious conditions share the symptoms of kennel cough, so your vet will examine your pet for signs of collapsing trachea, heartworm disease, bronchitis, asthma, cancer, heart disease, and more. Coughing can also be a sign of canine distemper virus or canine influenza virus.

Depending on the results of your pet's examinations and medical history, your veterinarian will determine whether or not kennel cough is the probable cause of your dog's symptoms.

Treatment for Kennel Cough in Dogs

Kennel cough in otherwise healthy adult dogs is generally easy to treat. Your veterinarian may decide that no medications are necessary and that rest is the best treatment while the infection continues.

For dogs with more severe symptoms, your vet may prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infections or cough suppressants to relieve persistent coughing.

Avoid using neck collars during your dog's recovery, and switch to a body harness for walks. Using a humidifier in rooms where your dog spends time can help relieve symptoms.

Most dogs recover from kennel cough within a week or two. A follow-up veterinary appointment is essential if symptoms persist, as kennel cough can sometimes lead to pneumonia.

How To Protect Your Dog Against Kennel Cough

If your dog regularly spends time with other dogs, ask your veterinarian at  Kearny Mesa Veterinary Center about vaccinating your pup against kennel cough. The vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing kennel cough since the illness can be caused by various pathogens.

Three forms of the vaccine are available: injection, nasal mist, and oral medication. If the kennel cough vaccine is necessary, your veterinarian will recommend the most appropriate form for your pet.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog suffering from a dry hacking cough? Contact Kearny Mesa Veterinary Center to book an examination for your four-legged friend!

New Patients Welcome

Kearny Mesa Veterinary Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Diego companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

Book Online (858) 279-3000