“Kennel Cough” in Dogs

Ben Gregorio, D.V.M.

Have you ever heard of “Kennel Cough” in dogs, and wondered what in the world is that?? Don’t you worry, I am here to educate and answer any questions you have!

So, what exactly is “Kennel Cough”?

Kennel cough is an infectious airway disease of dogs that causes coughing. Sometimes these coughing spells may be of short duration and very mild, but sometimes the disease can progress to a more serious infection and warrant further treatment. Many organisms cause kennel cough but most commonly we see a concurrent infection with a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica. These bacteria can be spread from dog to dog by nasal secretions via direct contact, aerosolization, or from in the environment.

Dr. Shannon Jarrell listening to the chest cavity of a dog

How does infection occur?

Once a dog comes in contact with the infectious agent, the bacteria invade the lining of the airway from the nasal passages to the trachea (windpipe) and even into the lungs. This lining of the airway has a defense mechanism called the “Mucocilliary Escalator” that acts like small fingerlike projections to push up any unwanted bacteria or debris from the lungs or windpipe and into the mouth to be expelled. Bordetella specifically can bind to this escalator and leave it useless. This further complicates the disease process as more bacteria and debris accumulate, causing more and more coughing. Dogs kept in a crowded area such as boarding facilities, local parks, groomers, or animal shelters are at an increased risk for this infection due to the nature of the disease.

Is it something to worry about? And when do I call the vet?

If you notice that your dog is coughing consistently, or has a productive cough, it is best that you go see your veterinarian for medical advice. Kennel cough can be a self-limiting disease, meaning that it will go away by itself if supportive care is given. It becomes more of a serious problem when your dog begins to show clinical signs such as a productive cough, increased tiredness, fever, and decreased appetite.

Dr. Ben Gregorio looking at an X-ray

Dr. Ben Gregorio looking at an X-ray

How is Kennel Cough treated?

Often times your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics and an anti-cough medication to treat this disease. The anti-cough medication makes the patient comfortable while the infection is being treated. Antibiotics are prescribed to avoid any serious complications of the disease process such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

How do I prevent my dog from getting Kennel Cough?

Fortunately, we can prevent one of the agents that can cause kennel cough by vaccinating our dogs! At your dog’s semi-annual or annual exam they will most likely be receiving a Bordetella vaccine to help prevent this disease, and also decrease the severity of clinical signs if they do end up becoming infected. An intra nasal vaccine is used to help safeguard your dogs against this very contagious and infectious bronchitis.  It is recommended that your dog be vaccinated for Bordetella at least every 6 months if they have an active lifestyle.

If your dog is coughing at home, please see your veterinarian to ensure no other disease is causing it. Your veterinarian will start with a thorough physical exam; often take x-rays, run blood work and a heartworm test to rule out other causes of coughing. Treatment will vary depending on the diagnosis.

Please know that I am always available for questions!\

Dr. Ben Gregorio


Dr. Ben Gregorio