Kennel Cough Disease in Dogs

Did you think only humans could have a cough? Well, you were wrong!

The physical health of an animal is the most important factor in how long they live, how healthy they feel and how they behave. If there is an untreated and unnoticed disease or any other health issue that they may be silently fighting with, it will affect all other activities. 

Most people like to keep dogs as pets and enjoy their company, but a dog requires a lot of care and examination to make sure that they stay healthy for themselves and those around them.

Cough is a widespread health issue found among human beings, and as irritating as it can be for them, it is also equally uncomfortable for dogs and other animals. among many other health issues, dogs also face cough diseases, as the most known cough disease is called, ‘Kennel Cough’. It may be challenging to detect such a condition in dogs as they cannot express their discomfort properly or talk about it. Hence, it is important to observe their changed behaviour, if any.

What is Kennel Cough in Dogs?

Kennel Cough is known as ‘Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease’ in medical terms. It is an airborne and contagious disease as one animal can transfer it to other. Human beings can also get infected through their pets. The veterinarians have often estimated it to spread in spaces where most animals are gathered, i.e. dog shows, walking parks for animals etc. 

How dangerous is Kennel Cough?

While most dogs may have suffered through this disease at some point but many recover independently or with the help of some prescribed medication. Kennel cough is most dangerous in puppies as the disease is harder than their immune system to fight with.

Listed below are a few Kennel Cough symptoms:

If your dog is suffering from Kennel Cough, it may produce a cough sound often, sounding like something is stuck down their throat. This is observed to be the most common symptom.

  • The infected dog may have a runny nose and might often sneeze due to the discomfort.
  • The kennel cough infected dog also may have a slight fever depending upon the severity of the disease. 
  • Another observed symptom is loss of appetite. The dog may stop eating generally as a sign that there is something wrong with their health.

How to treat Dogs’ Kennel Cough?

Depending upon the severity of the condition, mild cases of kennel cough in dogs can be treated with some extra care and rest in about a week. In some cases, antibiotics are also prescribed by the veterinarians so that symptoms like fever and sneezing can be reduced.

But, if the dog is weak and unhealthy already, the diseases can be a risk factor for health. This is when regular visit and physical examination by a veterinarian is required.

Can you prevent Kennel Cough in dogs?

Well, the answer is yes!

The bacteria that causes kennel cough in animals is called Bordetella Bacterium, and a vaccine is available to prevent that bacteria from infecting the animal/dog. It is suggested that if your dog is often exposed to other animals and is included in outdoor activities, it is important to get the dog vaccinated with the veterinarian’s advice.

There are different forms of vaccines available, including nasal, oral and injectable. The vaccine will help reduce the risk if the disease infects your dog, and in case of infection, the severity and symptoms will be mild and treatable.

If the dog has been infected by kennel cough in the past, vaccination is still required. Most people think that the natural immunity and antibodies that develop after the infection are enough. The natural immunity is not long-lasting, and the dog can get infected by the same bacteria again. This is why it is important to get the dogs vaccinated to prevent cough infection.

What causes Kennel Cough in Dogs?

Although in most cases, Bordetella Bacterium causes the diseases, there can be more than one bacteria involved too:

  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Canine Respiratory Coronavirus
  • Canine Distemper Virus
  • Adenovirus type 2

The role of age factor in kennel cough:

There is not a specific age of dogs that are affected by the respiratory disease. Dogs of all ages can be infected. It mainly depends on the environment that the dog is kept in and the kind of care that is provided. But, puppies and older dogs have a difficult time dealing with the disease. Healthy dogs do well with fighting the disease on their own and recover fast. 

How is Kennel cough in dogs diagnosed?

In most cases, kennel cough is initially detected by the change of behaviour of the dog and its symptoms. The veterinarian will diagnose the infection by examining the symptoms, the possibility of exposure to other animals and the hacking cough condition.

What can you do while your dog has Kennel Cough?

Isolating your dog is very important if they have been infected with kennel cough so that other family members of the house do not get infected. At the same time, the owner needs to take care of the dog by taking all health precautions and regularly provide the dogs with its medication. Most dogs recover in one week but the time can vary in different cases.

The involved pathogenesis of this infection is complex, and many pathogens and environmental factors have been incriminated. The bacteria, canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2), and canine parainfluenza virus-2 (CPIV-2) are most commonly implicated in kennel cough. It is observed that the severity of the disease is increased when more than one agent is involved or if there are extreme environmental conditions (e.g., poor ventilation). As an example, dogs asymptomatically infected with the Bordetella Bacteria are more severely affected by superinfection with CAV-2 than those not carrying the bacterium, and the other agents are sometimes isolated but of lesser significance and include canine adenovirus-1 (CAV-1), reovirus type 1, canid herpesvirus-1 (CaHV-1), canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV), and Mycoplasma species.

Gross and microscopic lesions are completely absent, or they vary from catarrhal to mucopurulent tracheobronchitis, with enlargement of the tonsils and retropharyngeal and tracheobronchial lymph nodes. The lesions are suppurative or mucopurulent rhinitis and tracheobronchitis, and suppurative bronchiolitis. In contrast, when lesions are purely viral, microscopic changes are focal necrosis of the tracheobronchial epithelium.

Ways of Diagnosis:

  1. The history and clinical presentation are done.
  2. The possibility of recent exposure to other dogs is questioned.
  3. The onset of cough several days after exposure is observed.

Laboratory tests:

  • The indication of abnormalities or nonspecific changes in the body.
  • The indication of other complicated infections or pneumonia.


  1. The indication depends on the severity of clinical signs.
  2. The strength of infection from moderate to severe.
  3. Abnormal lung patterns: interstitial or alveolar infiltrates.
  4. All these factors help rule out other causes of cough and dyspnea.

Some other diagnostic aids:

  • Sensitivity testing helps with choosing antibiotic therapy.
  • Antibody titers are rarely indicated for mildly affected dogs.

While cough is a common problem in a dog, it is important to figure out what is causing it. Normally, cough is caused by irritation of the throat, airways, or lungs, but there needs to be diagnoses if there is a bacterial infection. The windpipe or trachea branches to the lungs go into smaller airways called bronchi which branch several more times as they travel to the deeper parts of the lung.

The cough that is originating from the trachea may be stimulated by squeezing the trachea and cough due to heart disease and may be accompanied by a murmur or abnormal heart rate or rhythm.

The description of the nature of the cough, when the cough occurs, and if anything brings on coughing can be very helpful for the veterinarian in pinpointing the cause of coughing in your pet. Some causes of cough result in difficulty breathing between coughing episodes whereas, with other diseases, the pet breathes normally between coughing episodes. Most types of cough occur more commonly at night when the animal (and human family members) are trying to rest, dogs with heart failure, collapsing trachea and lung oedema cough more at night than during the day.

The cough caused by tracheal collapse often occurs when the pet is excited or is tugging on its collar and the type of cough caused by heart disease may follow exercise or excitement. Infectious cough due to tracheal collapse may be stimulated by drinking water. 

The sound of different sorts of coughs varies. Some coughs sound moist and others are harsh and dry. Moist coughs indicate the accumulation of fluid (water, blood or pus) in the airways or lungs, the environment and habits of the pet can influence which causes of cough are more likely. It is observed that the young dogs are more likely to develop a cough due to infections with bacteria or viruses and middle-aged dogs may develop wheezing and cough due to asthma, but this is all observational.

The Kennel cough is caused by several infectious organisms, including bacteria and viruses. Vaccinations are also not 100% protective against the agents of kennel cough. The kennel cough infection condition usually becomes apparent within a few weeks of exposure of your dog to other dogs in a kennel or show environment. It usually resolves itself without any treatment, if the cough is severe enough that the pet has difficulty sleeping or people in the house have difficulty sleeping, cough suppressants (given by the vet) can be given to suppress the frequency of cough, allowing the pet and human members of the household to get rest while the disease runs its course. If the cough does not subside in a week to ten days, your pet should be evaluated for other lung or airways diseases.

Other than kennel cough, other sorts of cough can be caused by heart disease, which is diagnosed by a chest x-ray, an electrocardiogram which measures the electrical activity of the heart, and often by a heart ultrasound which allows the veterinarian to view the inside of the heart, including the valves and the thickness of the walls of the heart muscle and heart disease may cause heart enlargement that puts pressure on the airways causing cough, or the heart may fail and lead to oedema of the lungs.

The factor of allergies to particles in the air, including dust, pollens, and smoke, can also cause allergic lung disease and coughing.

Lung cancer has to be considered in some cases as the lungs receive a large amount of blood that flows through the rest of the body. It most often originates from other organs in dogs and cats and is transferred from those organs through the blood to the lung. 

Tests for Kennel Cough:

Although, in most cases, tests aren’t necessary if your dog has a mild, weaker form of CIRD but sometimes chest x-rays and other tests are necessary for the following situations:

  • For dogs with signs that aren’t getting better in a few days with oral antibiotics.
  • Dogs that have more severe signs (e.g., fever, not eating, constantly hacking or coughing, etc.)
  • Young puppies who have a weak immune system.

The case of severe lower airway pneumonia can be life-threatening from difficulty breathing and lack of oxygen. In these situations, veterinarians recommend doing blood work to make sure that there’s not a more severe infection that is advancing into the lower airway or lungs (e.g., pneumonia) and some specific tests (e.g., a canine respiratory panel) can be done to look for the bacteria or viruses that cause CIRD; this typically involves a throat swap or culture of fluid from the upper airway or lungs (sounds similar to COVID-19 testing!).


In any sort of infection or disease that is detected in dogs or other animals, it is very important to avoid giving medicine yourself and instead get them examined by a veterinarian so that proper medication can be provided to reduce any risk factors. Other than that, as much love dogs express to their owners, they love to get back some too.

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