How Treat Kennel Cough in Dogs

In the same way that humans get colds and other respiratory diseases caused by various viral strains, dogs suffer from respiratory illnesses too. In this article we will be focusing on Kennel Cough in dogs. Kennel Cough is a common health issue in dogs. It is also known as infectious tracheobronchitis; it is basically a canine respiratory disease that is caused by both bacteria and virus; the bacterium is called Bordetella bronchiseptica and the viral strain is canine parainfluenza. 

How Kennel Cough is Transmitted 

Kennel Cough Transmission

In most cases the infected dog is attacked by both the bacteria and virus at the same time and that is why it is considered as such a serious disease in dogs.  There is a list of viruses that are found to make dogs more susceptible to the kennel Cough infection, namely; adenovirus, can distemper virus and para-influenza virus.  

Dogs become infected with kennel cough when they inhale viral or bacterial particles into their respiratory tract. The mode of infection of these pathogens is quite simple and common; they attack the cilia that covers the outside of the respiratory tract and as a result swelling is caused in the upper airways.  

The Cilia plays a very important role in blocking the entrance of infectious agents and its primary function is to block the entry of any harmful pathogen into the body of the organism. In the event that the Cilia fails to do its job then inflammation and irritation may occur in the airways. This can lead to other symptoms such as a dry cough and difficulty breathing in the most advanced stages. 

 As a result, the infected animal normally becomes very much susceptible to a secondary infection. There are various other factors that are responsible for weakening the primary protection mechanism that exist and when this happens dogs become vulnerable to this particular health condition. These factors include: 

  • Cold temperature 
  • Exposure to dust or tobacco smoke 
  • Stress 
  • Or in other cases exposure to poorly ventilated conditions such as the ones that are most common in shelters or in kennels 

It is widely believed that Kennel Cough infections are more likely to occur during summers when the weather is dry but the data indicates that your Dog is just as likely to be infected anytime of the year. A typical Kennel cough infection will normally run its course in a week or so, unless there are other complications, then it may last considerably longer. Uncomplicated kennel cough is caused by para-influenza or in other cases it is caused by adenovirus type 2 along with the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. In the advanced stages or complicated stages of the disease the infected dog will develop pneumonia and it is most likely to happen in dogs that are either young or dogs that are undergoing severe stress 

Kennel Cough is a very contagious disease which means that it can be easily transferred from one dog to another. In fact, it is called kennel disease because it can rapidly spread in kennels where the dogs are kept in close contact with each other without any proper hygiene.   

Kennel Cough spreads typically in the same way that most viruses do. When the infected animal coughs, the droplets are dispersed in the air and by inhaling those droplets the pathogen enters the body and causes an infection.  

In other cases, it can spread when a contaminated object is shared. Kennel Cough is most commonly seen in dogs that are kept in close proximity in shelter homes but it can also be contracted when a healthy dog comes in contact with an infected one during walk or in a park or any activities that typically see large groups of dogs coming together. 

How the Infection Takes Place in the Dog’s Body 

Kennel Cough Infection

As stated earlier when the pathogens enter the body then their first thing it typically attacks is the cilia. The cilia cover the surface or the lining of the respiratory tract and from here they extend to the coat of mucus present just above them.  

Cilia beat in a synchronized manner through the lower and more watery mucus layer which is also called Sol. A much thicker mucus layer which is called gel flows just above the sol. Any kind of impurity or debris including pathogens or disease-causing agents can become stuck in the gel and then with the help of the cilia these impurities are moved towards the upper portion of throat where they are coughed up.  

The mucous and cilia detect any disease causing agent instantly and then they are removed from the body right away but there are certain situations in which masses of impurities or harmful substances are inhaled by the infected dogs which damage the cilia and mucous and as a result they are unable to perform their function properly, these include: 

  • Overcrowding of dogs in shelters 
  • Disease causing agents like bacteria or viruses 
  • Cigarette smoking  
  • Cold or extremely low temperature  

The bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica infects the body by using any of the two strategies:  

  • Either this bacteria binds to cilia directly which results in the inability of the cilia to move within 3 hours of contact 
  • Or it produces substances which will result in the inability of your immune cell that are responsible for the destruction of any harmful bacteria forming a formidable response.  

Signs and Symptoms of Kennel Cough Disease 

Kennel Cough Symptoms

Although any dog can be infected with kennel cough, unvaccinated, aged and younger dogs are the most at risk categories. It can cause a continuous nonproductive cough and by the pattern or sound of the cough it may lead one to believe that there is an obstruction in the throat of your dog and by coughing they are trying to remove that obstruction. 

There are others who describe kennel disease as a deep honking cough. Other symptoms of kennel disease include runny nose, sneezing as well as eye discharge. In most severe or advanced stage of the disease the dog will lose its appetite and will be low in energy.  

The symptoms of this disease normally start to become clear after 7 to 10 days of exposure to any contaminated object or contact with an infected dog. In normal conditions the dog with kennel disease will eat and act normally but when it gets excited this may exacerbate the symptoms. 

How Kennel Disease is diagnosed? 

In majority of cases a coughing dog with little appetite, fever or temperature will be evaluated for pneumonia. If you have noticed that your dog has been exposed to a group of other dogs or animals and has since displayed symptoms of coughing and weakness then it is probable cause to take your dog to a Veterinarian who will make the diagnosis. 

 It is recommended that once the symptoms surface you should book an appointment with your veterinarian right away. Presently, there is no specific test for the diagnosis of kennel disease, the veterinarian will basically do the diagnosis based on the principle of exclusion. 

The veterinarian will perform an evaluation of your dog and exclude all the other possible causes of the cough like heart disease, fungal infection like heartworm disease, cancer or a collapsing trachea. Normally dogs with kennel cough have a history of exposure like in pet shows, parks or any other boarding training classes. Depending on all of these assessments the veterinarian will come to a conclusion as to whether the dog is infected with kennel disease or not.  

If after exposure to a group of other animals your dog is healthy, bright and eating well then it is recommended that you do not visit the vet. But it is good to call for any suggestions if your dog develops a cough. It is suggested that while visiting the vet, the waiting room may not be the ideal place to wait because of how contagious this disease is. 

Treatment of Kennel Disease with the Help of Vaccines 

Nasal Vaccines 

Nasal vaccines are one of the most common and effective treatment in case of kennel disease. Intranasal vaccines are given as early as three weeks of age and the resulted immune response will last for about 12-13 months. The benefit of intranasal vaccine is that the immunity is initiated at the site where the natural infection tries to take hold.  

This particular type of vaccination takes at least four days to generate a proper immune response so it is suggested that your dog the vaccine four days before the exposure. After a week of vaccination the dog will have nasal discharge or sneezing which is quite normal and it also shows the vaccine is being effective. In general, nasal vaccine stimulates faster immune response as compared to the injectable vaccination.  

Nasal vaccines against Bordetella bronchiseptica are also effective against the adenovirus type 2 and para-influenza virus so they are generally effective for both virus and bacteria.  

Oral Vaccines 

Oral vaccines are readily available for Bordetella bronchiseptica but they are not available for para-influenza and adenovirus. This vaccine is given with the help of a syringe inside the mouth right in the cheeks and by doing so there is no concern about sneezing out some of the vaccine. It can be given to puppies that are 8 weeks young and the good thing is that the immunity produced can last up to 12 months which means that the vaccine is an annual vaccine.  

Injectable Vaccines 

This type of vaccine is given to aggressive dogs when there are chances that the dog will bite if their muzzle is touched. In case of puppies these types of vaccines provide good immune response if two doses are given almost one month apart. Boosters are given per year, in case of injectable vaccines sometimes a small lump may appears under the skin where the injection is injected which will resolve without any treatment.  

It is also important to mention that the Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccinations do not stop the infection they can lower the symptoms of the disease but are unable to prevent the infection entirely. It is the case with all three types of the vaccines whether it is nasal, oral or injectable vaccine.  

Apart from the vaccines cough suppressants is also prescribed by vets in order to relieve continuous cough. In case of bacterial infection antibiotics are required. To open the breathing passages anti-inflammatory drugs as well as bronchodilators are also used. In case if the pneumonia develops, then the dog needs much aggressive treatment.  

Home Care In case of Kennel Cough 

If your dog is suffering from kennel cough, there are certain home remedies well that will help to alleviate some of the symptoms that your dog is experiencing. A vaporizer is a great way of unclogging your dog’s nose. This can be done by putting the dog in a small room with a cool-mist humidifier and use it the same way you would for a child a couple of times a day.  

This will help to moisten the eyes and nostrils of your dog and will result in your pet feeling a lot better. If a humidifier is not available then a hot shower may help. When showering it may be a good idea to take your dog to the bathroom with you and use hot water so that the bathroom will be filled with stream. Do it every day for ten minutes, this will help in alleviating blocked nostrils. It’s important to try to feed your dog even if he is refusing to eat. You can also enhance the aroma by adding a little bit of water or chicken broth to the puppy’s food. Use a blender to make a paste which will spur your dog’s appetite. After doing all this if your dog is still not feeling well then call the vet.  

Preventive Measures for Kennel Cough 

There are various vaccines currently on the market which can help to limit your dog’s chances of getting this disease. Its recommended that you consult your veterinarian for more information about available vaccination options. 

It is important to note that protecting your dogs from kennel cough is not always easy because different infectious agents are involved and some of them cannot be prevented with the help of these vaccines. Dogs that have higher chances of getting kennel disease can benefit from annual vaccinations which can be used alone as well as in combination with other drugs.  


Kennel Cough is quite common in pets and it is contagious. In order decrease the likelihood of your dog contracting this disease keep a hygienic environment for your pets. The use of surface disinfectants, sterilize bowls, dishes, toys and other equipment are encouraged.  

Sanitize the air by using a proper air purification system that kills bacteria and viruses. Vaccinate your dog once or twice a year, this will help your dog to develop a strong immune system. Kennel disease is a common and can be a serious health issue but with proper care it can be managed. 

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