Kennel cough in Dogs


My dog is coughing – could it be Kennel Cough?

There is a long list of causes of coughs, some of which are more serious than others, so careful history taking and examination by the Vet are needed to decide if further investigations and possible treatment are required (looking for heart and lung problems or another non-infectious airway disease). However, the most common cause of a dog developing a sudden onset cough is an upper airway infection known as ‘kennel cough’.


Does my dog need to have been in kennels to get Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a misleading name for the condition because the dog need not have been in kennels to catch it. In fact, kennel cough is not caused by just one type of infectious agent – it is a general term for any contagious upper respiratory tract infection. There may also be more than one infectious type of ‘bug’ involved at a time. The most common causes of kennel cough are a bacterium called Bordetella and a virus called Parainfluenza.

What are the effects of Kennel Cough?

Dogs with kennel cough usually develop a hacking cough (often sounding as though there is something stuck in the dog’s throat), and the affected animals will sometimes cough up white froth. The condition usually comes on quite quickly, and although affected dogs may not have been in kennels, they will usually have been socialising with other dogs in the previous few days.

The cough may worsen with exercise and also, when affected animals pull on the lead.  Dogs with kennel cough are often bright or just a bit off colour, however they can have a temperature and may become really poorly.

Is there treatment available for Kennel Cough?

Treatment depends on severity and individual circumstances. Kennel cough is usually self-limiting, so not all affected dogs need treatment. Anti-inflammatory drugs will often be given to provide some relief. Occasionally, antibiotics will be used but these are reserved for more ill patients or those who may be at particular risk. This approach is in line with that of the human medical profession who are trying to prevent the overuse of antibiotics which may lead to the development of strains of infection which are resistant to antibiotics.


Can Kennel Cough be prevented?

There is a vaccine against kennel cough which is available at Willows, although it is not part of our routine vaccine regime. The vaccine is administered by squirting it up the nose, so there are no injections, but some dogs find this unpleasant (or at least a surprise!)  The vaccine lasts for a year and, like the human flu vaccine, does not completely prevent the possibility of a dog developing an infectious cough, but it does reduce the chances that any such infection will be serious.

Most dogs that go to kennels are required to have the kennel cough vaccine and we would recommend it for dogs going into kennels, even if the kennels do not insist on it. The kennel cough vaccine is also a good idea if your dog regularly socialises or attends classes where he or she has close contact with other dogs.

Dog Health Information

Find out more

To assist owners in understanding more about a health conditions that are specific to dogs we have put together a range of information sheets to talk you through some of the more common health concerns seen and treated by our General Practice Vets.