Kennel cough is a very common respiratory infection in dogs that causes them to develop a dry or wet hacking cough.
Kennel cough is also called ‘infectious bronchitis’.
Kennel cough is highly contagious (spreads easily!)
Kennel cough normally clears up on its own with minimal treatment.
It is important to distinguish kennel cough from more serious causes of coughing.
Some causes of kennel cough can be prevented by vaccination.
What is kennel cough?
‘Kennel cough’ is the term given to infectious bronchitis in dogs.
It can be caused by several different respiratory viruses and sometimes bacteria.
It is highly contagious and spreads easily between dogs, causing them to develop a hacking, dry-sounding cough which can either be dry or productive.
Not all dogs will develop symptoms and some dogs can carry and spread the infection without ever showing signs themselves.
How do I know if my dog has kennel cough?
A dog with kennel cough will have a characteristic-sounding forceful cough which is often described as ‘sounding as though they are trying to cough something up’ or ‘like they have something stuck in their throat’.
Apart from a cough, dogs with kennel cough are usually well in themselves, although occasionally complications can occur. There is no specific test to diagnose kennel cough, but your vet will give your dog a full clinical exam to check there are no other symptoms of concern.
How is kennel cough treated?
Most cases of kennel cough will clear up on their own within 2-3 weeks without any specific treatment. Occasionally, it can take several weeks longer than this for the cough to disappear completely.
If your dog is coughing a lot or seems uncomfortable, for example when he’s eating, a course of anti-inflammatories might be prescribed, alongside some cough syrup, to help your dog feel better whilst he recovers.
Antibiotics are only needed if your dog develops a serious bacterial infection as a result of having kennel cough. Rarely, complications such as pneumonia can occur, and additional medications may be required.
What can I do to help my dog get better?
Any pressure around your dog’s neck is likely to aggravate their cough. This is especially significant if your dog pulls a lot when out on a walk. Swapping your collar and lead for a harness will help massively.
If your dog normally eats dry food and appears to be uncomfortable when eating, you could soak his biscuits in some warm water to soften them. Where possible, you should try and keep your dog away from other dogs whilst he is coughing to prevent the spread of infection.
Should I vaccinate my dog against kennel cough?
There are vaccines against kennel cough that can be given annually, either orally or up the nose.
The vaccines contain some of the most common viruses and bacteria that cause kennel cough – Canine Parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica.
There are so many strains of viruses and bacteria that can cause kennel cough so vaccination cannot guarantee that your dog will not develop kennel cough, but it will lessen the symptoms of the infection and allow for a much quicker recovery.
Most boarding kennels and day-care centres will require your dog to be vaccinated against kennel cough.