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Identifying and Treating Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough
Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs. It is characterized by a dry, hacking cough that sounds as if the dog is trying to clear something from its throat. Although the name suggests that it is only found in kennels, it can be contracted anywhere dogs congregate, such as dog parks, pet stores, or grooming salons.

Causes: Kennel cough can be caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria. The most common culprits include:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (a bacterium)

  • Canine parainfluenza virus

  • Canine adenovirus type 2

*Dogs can be infected with multiple agents at once, which can sometimes complicate and prolong the illness.

Symptoms: The primary symptom of kennel cough is a persistent, forceful cough. Other potential symptoms include:

  • Sneezing

  • Runny nose

  • Eye discharge

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy

  • Low-grade fever

Transmission: Kennel cough is spread from one dog to another through the air, by direct contact, or on contaminated surfaces (including hands or clothing).

Treatment: Many mild cases of kennel cough will resolve on their own without treatment. However, for severe cases or for dogs that have other health issues, a veterinarian might prescribe:

  • Cough suppressants

  • Antibiotics (if a bacterial infection is suspected or confirmed)

  • Bronchodilators

  • Supportive care, such as ensuring the dog stays hydrated and in a humidified environment


  1. Vaccination: There are vaccines available against some of the primary agents of kennel cough, including Bordetella and parainfluenza. Discuss with your veterinarian about the most appropriate vaccination schedule for your dog.

  2. Avoid high-risk areas: If there's a known outbreak of kennel cough in your area, avoid places where dogs gather.

  3. Sanitation: Regularly cleaning and disinfecting shared dog areas can reduce the risk.

In conclusion, kennel cough, while often mild in nature, presents a significant concern due to its highly contagious nature, particularly in environments where dogs congregate. Prevention is paramount, not only to protect individual dogs from the discomfort and potential complications of the disease but also to maintain the overall health of the wider canine community. Ensuring proper vaccination, avoiding high-risk areas during outbreaks, and adhering to sanitation protocols can drastically reduce the spread and impact of kennel cough. The proactive steps taken towards prevention underscore our collective responsibility in ensuring the well-being of our beloved pets and the larger dog population.


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