Primer on Kennel Cough

Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhD
and Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS 

Dogs often develop an upper respiratory infection after a stay at the kennel or any place where they come into contact with a lot of other dogs. The term "kennel cough" is used as sort of a catchall phrase for any infectious cough that can spread rapidly from dog to dog.

Kennel cough can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or both. 

The most common bacterium involved is Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is the bacterial component of the kennel cough vaccine.

The most common sign is a persistent, hacking cough. 

Your dog may or may not cough up phlegm. Dogs often have a runny nose or eyes, or other signs of a mild respiratory infection. The condition is rarely serious, and it usually goes away on its own in 7-10 days. However, infected dogs can easily pass the condition on to other dogs.

Treatment consists mostly of tender loving care. 

Your dog needs rest and a good diet, and you should encourage your dog to drink water. Your veterinarian may prescribe a cough suppressant to allow your dog to get some rest. Antibiotics may be needed if the infection is bacterial. In general, affected dogs are not hospitalized to prevent passing the infection on to other dogs.


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