Kennel Cough

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough (Infectious Tracheobronchitis) is an upper respiratory infection that mostly affects dogs but can occasionally affect cats. It is caused by both bacteria and a virus. The most common infectious agent is Bordetella Bronchisepta. Kennel cough is actually a mix of infections rather than infection by one agent. A kennel cough may be mild enough to not warrant treatment, or it may be serious enough to progress to pneumonia, depending on the immunological strength of the pet and what bacterium and viruses are involved. Either way, the coughing is enough to keep both you and your pet awake at night.

Signs of Kennel Cough

Clinical signs usually develop within 3-5 days after initial exposure. They are generally mild. The most common sign that is reported is a dry, hacking cough that may sound like something is stuck in the throat. Sometimes some nasal discharge may be present.  They are generally healthy. Otherwise, no fevers or lethargy noted. It may not sound like more than just a common cold, but it can take a toll on your pet! If you suspect kennel cough, especially if you feel there is listlessness and/or a fever involved, contact your veterinarian and keep your pet isolated from other pets.

How Does Kennel Cough Spread?

Kennel cough is highly contagious and most commonly occurs where groups of dogs are together. Think kennels, dog parks, doggy daycares, groomers, etc. An infected dog sheds bacterium and/or viruses into the air. These airborne secretions float around until they are inhaled by a healthy dog. It can also spread through direct contact or by contaminated objects, such as bowls, toys, sticks.  The normal respiratory tract has safeguards to protect themselves from infectious agents, but they can be damaged by simple things like cold temperatures, poor ventilation, heavy dust exposure, stresses from over-crowding or moving, cigarette smoke, or infectious agents. When they are damaged, it is much easier for bacteria and/or viruses to invade. The Bordetella  bronchiseptica  organisms are tricky themselves. They bind directly to the cilia in the respiratory tract, rendering them unable to move the debris up and out. They also secrete debris that disables the immune cells responsible for destroying bacteria. Bordetella is often accompanied by other infectious agents so that makes it a mix of infections rather than one infectious agent causing havoc on your poor pets respiratory tract.

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?

Most dogs recover within 1-2 weeks, although it can sometimes take up to 6 weeks for a full recovery. Your pet can still be a carrier of the disease several weeks after he/she has recovered.

Diagnoses and Treatment Of Kennel Cough

If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, isolate them immediately. Call your veterinarian and book an appointment if you think your pet is having a difficult time with the coughing. While waiting for your appointment, wait in the car if you can until your room opens up. Remember, it is extremely contagious and we see a lot of puppies who are just building up their immunities and a lot of sick or elderly dogs whose immunities are little to non-existent. A coughing dog that has no appetite, has a fever, and is listless should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Whether a pet has those specific signs or not, the Veterinarian will do a complete physical exam, including listening to the lungs and upper airway. They will check the temperature of your pet and in extreme cases will recommend radiographs of the chest to make sure pneumonia is not present. Most cases of

Whether a pet has those specific signs or not, the veterinarian will do a complete physical exam, including listening to the lungs and upper airway. They will check the temperature of your pet and in extreme cases will recommend radiographs of the chest to make sure pneumonia is not present. Most cases of kennel cough will go away on their own although sometimes a veterinarian will prescribe a cough suppressant to help control the coughing. In cases that are a little more severe, antibiotics, steroids and/or pain medications may be prescribed. One thing you can do for your pet at home is restrict activity-kennel rest. Remember, the more they run around, the more irritated the throat gets and the more they cough and become uncomfortable. If the condition does not improve on it’s own, have the Veterinarian re-assess your pet. There may be an underlying concern.

The Vaccine

Bordetella Bronceseptica helps protect the dog from the Bordetella bacteria but since kennel cough is a mix-up of different bacterium and viruses they can still contract kennel cough. Vaccinating decreases the risk of contracting but does not totally eliminate it. It is like the flu vaccine for humans, it helps protetect against it but you can still contract the flu. The vaccine comes in different forms, intra-nasal (into the nose), intra-oral (into the mouth) and an injection and you can get the vaccine done at the same time as they are getting their other vaccines. Boosters for the vaccine are given annually. If you know your dog will be going to dog parks, daycare, kennels, groomers, etc. it is a good idea to get the vaccine done to do everything you can to help them from contracting kennel cough. No one likes to spend their days and nights coughing and not feeling their best!


That is pretty much the scoop on the issue of Kennel Cough! Feel free to contact us if you have any more questions or if you suspect your poor pet has caught it. We are here to help!

This blog was written with the help of information gathered from VeterinaryPartner.com


Written by Jill Thiessen, Office Manager

Our experience has always been positive from the first interaction with the Tech at the front desk to seeing Dr.…

Sarita Francis

They are compassionate, thorough, professional, and wonderful. They’ve taken the best care of my pup and always take the time…

Samantha Van Hooydonk


My Dental Cleaning by Carrots the Clinic Cat

I recently had my check-up with Dr. B, and he mentioned that I have a lot of tartar on my teeth and something called a resorptive lesion. I had been noticing that my mouth wasn’t feeling so clean, and it did hurt when I ate my kibble.

Read More
See All Articles

Last updated: May 25, 2020

Dear Clients,

With recent changes to restrictions on businesses, we are pleased to advise that effective May 25, 2020 the restrictions on veterinary practices have been lifted. Based on these changes, below are some important updates to our operating policies.


This includes vaccines, wellness exams, blood work, heartworm testing, spays and neuters, dental services, and more!



If you wish to connect with a veterinarian via message, phone or video, visit our website and follow the "Online Consultation" link.


Have you welcomed a new furry family member to your home? We’d love to meet them! Visit our Must Know New Pet Owner Information page for useful resources and helpful recommendations for new pet owners.


We are OPEN with the following hours:

- Monday to Friday: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
- Saturday: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
Sunday: CLOSED

Thank you for your patience and understanding and we look forward to seeing you and your furry family members again!

- Your dedicated team at Mill Creek Animal Hospital