Kennel Cough Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Tips On How to Treat Kennel Cough

After your dog comes home from boarding, you notice a dry, hacking cough. It almost sounds like they want to clear their throat.

When he or she starts making a noise that sounds like a goose honk, you start to wonder, Could these be signs of kennel cough?

What Is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that affects cats and dogs. It is more common in dogs, but cats can also get it. The illness is marked by a dry, coarse noise from the throat.

Kennel cough is caused by the combination of several bacteria or viruses, often including Bordetella bronchiseptica, canine influenza, parainfluenza virus and adenovirus type-2. It is also referred to as the Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC).

Infection is transmitted when dogs are in close contact with each other in tight quarters, like boarding kennels, dog shows or animal shelters. The incubation period is two to 14 days. Your vet can diagnose your pet based on clinical signs and health history.

Animals can spread it through direct contact or by sharing food bowls, water bowls, toys or litter boxes. Even sniffing each other on a walk or playing together at the dog park can be enough to spread the disease.

Dogs can also transmit the bacteria by barking. Barking causes the bacteria to become airborne, where it can be inhaled by another dog and cause illness. Because this illness is so contagious, it can be difficult to determine exactly where your pet contracted kennel cough.

While this infection does not typically cross over to humans, immunocompromised people may be at risk. Talk to your doctor if this is a concern for you.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

  • Coarse, dry cough
  • Large amounts of phlegm
  • Gagging
  • Conjuctivitis
  • Rhinitis
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low fever

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?

Symptoms usually resolve without treatment within one to three weeks. Mild symptoms may linger for several weeks even when the bacteria has been cleared. Older dogs or those with other medical conditions can take up to six weeks to recover.

If your dog hasn’t recovered from kennel cough within the expected timeframe, call your veterinarian. This could be a sign of a more serious condition like canine distemper.

How to Treat Kennel Cough

Your vet can help you determine what treatment is best for your pet. Often, no treatment is needed besides lots of TLC.

Treatment can include cough suppressant medicines if symptoms are mild. Severe symptoms that occur along with a fever may require an antibiotic to target Bordetella bacteria and prevent secondary bacterial infections like pneumonia.

Preventing Kennel Cough

  • Feed an all-natural, high quality food to keep the immune system strong.
  • Keep fresh water available to your pet at all times.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Keep your pet up to date on Bordetella vaccinations, especially before boarding or dog shows. Vaccinations don’t guarantee complete immunity or treat a current infection.
  • Keep living areas well-ventilated.
  • Do not allow pets with symptoms to have any contact with other animals.
  • Avoid sharing food and water bowls with other animals.
  • Give immune-boosting supplements.

Immune-Boosting Supplements for Kennel Cough

KC-Defense™ Granules is a homeopathic medicine for dry, hacking coughs and sneezing. KC-Defense relieves symptoms of acute kennel cough, clears the chest for easy breathing, protects the respiratory system and boosts the immune system.

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  1. Parker, H. “Kennel Cough in Dogs.” Fetch by WebMD. Accessed February 24, 2022.
  2. Ward, E. “Kennel Cough or Tracheobronchitis in Dogs.” VCA Animal Hospitals. Accessed February 24, 2022.
  3. “Kennel Cough in Dogs – Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention.” AKC American Kennel Club. Accessed February 24, 2022.
  4. “Kennel Cough.” PetAlive. Accessed February 24, 2022.

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