Kennel Cough. What is it?

What is it?

Kennel cough is an infectious respiratory infection which can spread easily from dog to dog. Just like the flu in humans, it is caused by a number of different strains of bacteria and viruses. The main symptom is a dry hacking cough caused by inflammation of the voice box and windpipe. 

It is spread via airborne droplets when dogs' coughs, touch each other or infected surfaces (e.g. toys/ water bowls). Kennel cough can be picked up multiple times in a dog’s lifetime and can cause serious issues for puppies and senior dogs with underlying health conditions. 

What are the symptoms of Kennel cough?

Symptoms of kennel cough can arise from a few days to two weeks after being exposed to the illness, which can last one to three weeks, some cases lingering up to six weeks. A persistent ‘hacking’ cough is the first noticeable sign of kennel cough. It may sound like your dog has something stuck in their throat, or retching to get something out. Occasionally, they may even retch up white frothy phlegm. 

Although puppies, senior dogs and those with underlying health conditions may develop further symptoms such as: 

  • A runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Lethargy 
  • Loss of appetite
  • High temperature 

Help! I think my dog has kennel cough! 

In some cases kennel cough can lead to pneumonia, so if it has been a few weeks and your dog is not better or their condition is worsened, then contact your veterinarian for advice. As it is highly contagious, it is best to call beforehand as they may be able to advise over the phone, offer a video consultation or book an appointment for a time where minimal contact to other dogs is possible. 

If you dog has kennel cough you should:

  • Try and encourage plenty of rest by keeping their bed area away from any exciting stimulus. 
  • Avoiding too much lead and collar activity, as this causes further strain on their respiratory system. A harness may be a better alternative for walks. 
  • Ensuring your home is well ventilated 
  • Keeping your dogs away from other dogs, so all training and day care activities should be postponed until recovery. No socialising with other dogs in the park. 

If your dog is very unwell your veterinarian may prescribe some anti-inflammatories to reduce temperature and any inflammation of the airways. If appropriate, antibiotics may also be prescribed. In some cases, your vet may advise chest x-rays to rule out any other illnesses. 

How can I prevent kennel cough?

The most effective kennel cough vaccine is known as an intranasal vaccination. It is a liquid squirted up the nose, and most dogs tend to tolerate it very well. The vaccination isn’t usually included in the core dog vaccinations, but we strongly advise it for most dogs. Especially if your dog tends to be socialising with other dogs frequently or have underlying conditions, where their immune system is weakened. Most reputable boarding facilities will require the vaccination as standard. 

The nasal vaccination can be given to dogs as young as three weeks old, which covers the most common bacteria, Bordetella bronchiseptica. This provides 12 month protection, and takes four days for it to become effective. Like many vaccinations, the kennel cough vaccine cannot guarantee 100% protection but it will significantly reduce the symptoms as well as lowering the chance of catching it. 

Kennel cough vaccinations are included in the annual membership fee at Pickles, which can be given at the same time as the booster vaccinations.