What is Kennel Cough in Dogs?

Have you ever heard of kennel cough? This common health problem is a frequent issue for dogs, and it’s important to learn what you can about this illness if you’ve got a dog too. By brushing up on the basics of kennel cough, you’ll learn how to help your dog and what to expect from this diagnosis as well.

In the article below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about kennel cough in your dog. With the help of this information, you can figure out the right way to protect your dog from this condition. Read on to find out more!

kennel cough in dogs

What Causes Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is caused by a type of bacteria known as Bordetella. This is the most common underlying cause of kennel cough, although the condition may sometimes also be caused by canine adenovirus, canine parainfluenza, and canine coronavirus (which is not the same illness as covid-19).

Most of the time, the cause of kennel cough is bacterial. When it is bacterial, your veterinarian will likely prescribe your dog antibiotics to recover from this condition. If the cause is viral, however, your dog will not be able to be given antibiotics and will instead need to simply rest while recovering.

What are the Risk Factors of Kennel Cough?

There are a few different risk factors when it comes to your dog’s health.

Recent Kennel/ Boarding Visits

The common name “kennel cough” came about because this condition is often spread quickly in boarding facilities and kennels. If your dog has recently stayed in a kennel, or if they came from a shelter or rescue recently, they may be at an increased risk.

Recent Vet Stays

Vet offices are also prone to spreading kennel cough, especially in dogs who have to stay overnight or for several days.

Other Illness

If your dog is already sick with another illness, they may be at a greater risk of contracting kennel cough if exposed to it.

What are the Symptoms of Kennel Cough?

If your dog is showing any of these symptoms it is possible that they could have kennel cough. Call your veterinarian for information on how to help your pet feel better.

Honking Cough

One of the most common signs of kennel cough is a cough that sounds like a goose honking. This is an intense type of cough that is often worsened by activity.


Sneezing may sometimes be seen along with honking coughs in dogs with kennel cough.

Difficulty Eating

Since the severe cough associated with this condition is also aggravated by eating, dogs with kennel cough may have trouble eating and drinking water until the problem clears up. Provide soft food for dogs dealing with this symptom.

Other Respiratory Symptoms

Sometimes, other respiratory symptoms may be present, including watery eyes, a runny nose, and more.

What are the Treatments for Kennel Cough?

There are a few different treatments your veterinarian might recommend once a dog is diagnosed with kennel cough.


If your dog’s kennel cough is caused by a type of bacteria, like Bordetella, your vet will prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection. Some dogs may be given antibiotics regardless of the type of kennel cough, to help prevent further infections.


Steroids can be given for severe cases of kennel cough but may not always be necessary.

Rest and Fluids

Most dogs will recover fully from kennel cough with the help of some rest and fluids. Encourage your dog to relax as much as possible for the next couple of weeks following diagnosis.

Treatment of Secondary Infections

If your dog does contract a secondary infection along with kennel cough, it’s important to treat the problem before it gets out of hand.

How Can You Prevent Kennel Cough for Your Dog?

When it comes to kennel cough, prevention is best! Be sure to talk with your vet to find the right solution for your dog’s individual needs.


There is a vaccine against the Bordetella bacteria strain. Additionally, there are vaccines against canine parainfluenza, canine adenovirus, and canine coronavirus. By keeping up with your dog’s vaccinations, you will help them prevent all the most common causes of kennel cough.

Quality Kennels and Boarding Facilities

If you must board your dog at a kennel, make sure to work only with quality kennels that health check their clients. Do not board your dog at any facility that doesn’t require a kennel cough vaccine or other health records before staying.

Overall Health Care

Additionally, make sure you keep up with your dog’s overall health and wellness needs. This way, they will not be as likely to contract illnesses like kennel cough when exposed to it.

In Conclusion

Kennel cough is not always preventable, but there are many steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk of developing this condition. If your dog does come down with kennel cough, the good news is that most dogs will recover fully from this illness in just a short time and may do not need vet care to do so.

However, if your dog is struggling with any symptoms or if they just don’t seem to be getting over kennel cough yet, they may need to see a vet for additional assistance. Need to talk with a veterinarian about your dog’s kennel cough? Use the online form to book an appointment at any of our Heart + Paw locations! 

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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