Kennel Cough

Another term used to describe the highly contagious Kennel Cough is infectious bronchitis. Similar diseases can be observed in animals including cats and rabbits. Kennel Cough is caused by a mixture of infections caused by both viruses and bacteria. These include the canine adenovirus, the canine distemper virus, the canine parainfluenza virus, mycoplasma, and the bacteria known as Bordetella bronchiseptica. The disease is a malaise of the respiratory system which occurs in the upper respiratory tract. Dogs that are the most susceptible are those who are kept in boarding kennels participate in dog shows, veterinary practices or come into regular contact with many other dogs. Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are also susceptible. The disease can infect the dog for as long as one month and is contagious for a further three months. Vaccination is the best possible method to prevent the spread of Kennel Cough.


Kennel Cough is transmitted by aerosol droplets as the dogs cough and sneeze. If a dog comes into contact with an infected animal or contaminated items such as bowls, toys or even the floor then it can become infected. The spread of the disease is increased by the fact that the symptoms may only begin to present themselves within five days after becoming infected. All breeds of dog can transmit the disease to each other.

Kennels must ensure their property is always disinfected to prevent this spread.There should be adequate ventilation and all bedding, bowls and toys should be thoroughly cleaned to prevent further transmission if a dog has become infected.


The most well known symptom of Kennel Cough is a regular, harsh and dry cough sometimes accompanied by sneezing and wheezing. Other symptoms also include loss of appetite, a high temperature, nasal and eye discharge. Lethargy and depression are also observed. After exercise, due to pressure on the trachea, there may be gagging or even vomiting. These symptoms can last for several weeks and sometimes as long as a month.

It is often likened to human “flu” or influenza due to the symptoms but also because of the fact that various bacteria and viruses cause it. In dogs with a very poor immune system either from birth or as a result of another disease, Kennel Cough has been known to cause fatalities.

Treatment and Prevention

There is no actual cure for Kennel Cough and most treatment plans suggest resting the animal and giving double acting antibiotics to prevent possible secondary infections. Such infections include pneumonia. Cough suppressants or sprays may be used or, more simply, steam inhalation. Steam inhalation can reduce the symptoms and this can be done filling a bowl with hot water and carefully sitting the dog near it. Another safer method is to run a hot bath and for the owner to stay in the bathroom with the dog for around twenty minutes.

The majority of boarding kennels will not accept any dogs without proof of having a kennel cough vaccination. As opposed to most vaccines, the Kennel Cough vaccination is not injected under the skin but squirted up the nose and is administered a fortnight before going into a boarding kennels or participating in a show.

Diagnosis and Prognosis

Veterinarians usually diagnose the disease by observing the symptoms presented and by checking on the dog’s previous history. The prognosis is usually good if caught in time but if left too long other problems can result such as pneumonia and it is these which may prove fatal. As a result of this and in addition to the fact that it is highly contagious, the veterinary practice should be contacted immediately if the symptoms arise.  


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