Kennel Cough

If your dog starts to regularly make sounds as though they are trying to clear their throat, it's quite possible that he/she may have a case of kennel cough. Although kennel cough can sound terrible, most of the time it is not a serious condition, and most dogs will recover without treatment.

What is Kennel Cough?

Just as human colds may be caused by many different viruses, kennel cough itself can have multiple causes. Dogs "catch" kennel cough when they inhale bacteria or virus particles into their respiratory tract. This tract is normally lined with a coating of mucus that traps infectious particles, but there are a number of factors that can weaken this protection and make dogs prone to kennel cough infection, which results in inflammation of the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe).

 These factors include:
  • Exposure to crowded and/or poorly ventilated conditions, such as thoughs found in many kennels and shelters
  • Cold temperatures
  • Exposure to dust
  • Travel-induced stress  

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

The classic symptom of kennel cough is a persistent, forceful cough, or clearing of the throat. Some dogs with kennel cough may show other symptoms of illness, including sneezing, a runny nose, or eye discharge.

If your dog has kennel cough, he/she probably will not lose their appetite or have a decreased energy level.

Treating and Preventing Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is contagious. If you think your dog might have the condition, you should keep him/her away from other animals and contact your vet.

Although most cases of kennel cough will resolve without treatment, medications may speed recovery or minimize symptoms during the course of the infection.  These include antibiotics and cough medicines.

You may also find that keeping your dog in a well-humidified area and using a harness instead of a collar, especially for dogs that strain against a leash, will minimize the coughing.

Most dogs with kennel cough recover completely within three weeks, though it can take up to six weeks in older dogs or those with other medical conditions. If the later is the case then ongoing kennel cough infection can lead to pneumonia, be sure to follow up with your vet if your dog doesn't improve within the expected amount of time. Also, if your dog at any time has symptoms of rapid breathing, not eating, or listlessness, contact your vet straight away, as these could be signs of a more serious condition.