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  1. dogs health and wellness

Dog Health and Wellness Tips

Dog Health and Wellness Tips

Fuzzy vets' expert dog health advice to help pet parents make better decisions for their pup's health and wellness.
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Kennel Cough: Symptoms, Management, and Prevention

Posted by Dr. Roth on September 12, 2022

What to do if
dog boarding kennel cough

Dogs are exposed to and contract viruses and diseases just like their pet parents do. Many diseases are easily treatable and preventable with proper care. 

However, some symptoms may indicate more serious conditions. It's important for pet parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of common dog illnesses in order to make informed decisions on what kind of care their animals need. One common dog ailment is Kennel Cough. Recovering from Kennel Cough is an easy process for most dogs, but it is still important to seek medical attention. 

What Is Kennel Cough? 

Kennel Cough, or Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, is a respiratory disease characterized by inflammation in the respiratory tract that is caused by several different viruses and bacteria. In trying to prevent the disease, pet parents may wonder how do dogs get Kennel Cough? Dogs can contract the disease through airborne particles, contaminated surfaces, or direct contact with another infected dog. Kennel Cough is highly contagious and can be contracted in any location that dogs frequent, such as boarding facilities and dog parks. 

Luckily, Kennel Cough is preventable and treatable. However, the disease can be more severe in puppies younger than six months of age and in dogs with other underlying health conditions. This is why vets recommend quarantining young puppies until they’ve completed full rounds of vaccinations and their immune systems have had a proper chance to develop. Paying attention to the signs and symptoms of Kennel Cough will allow pet parents to catch the illness early so they can begin to address their dog's needs as soon as possible. 

What Are Signs of Kennel Cough in Dogs? 

The clinical signs of Kennel Cough are similar to the typical cold and flu-like symptoms, such as coughing, runny nose, sneezing, and coughing up (not vomiting) white foam, saliva, or clear liquid. Knowing the signs and typical Kennel Cough symptoms can allow pet parents to differentiate between other illnesses and can help pet parents explain symptoms to their vet who will make sure nothing more serious is affecting the dog. 

Hacking Cough Sounding Like a Goose Honk 

The most indicative sign of Kennel Cough is a dry, hacking cough that sounds like a goose honk. This cough will be persistent and can be differentiated from a reverse sneeze, which sounds more like rapid inhales and is most typical in smaller dogs. 

A dry cough typical of Kennel Cough can also be differentiated from productive coughs, which sound wet, almost like the dog is trying to cough something up. Kennel Coughs can, however, result in clear liquid, saliva, or some foaming. Pet parents should chat with a veterinarian if they suspect their dog might have Kennel Cough, as the symptoms could also be a sign of something more serious, like canine flu or pneumonia. 

Runny Nose 

Another common symptom of Kennel Cough is a runny nose. Pet parents should look for nasal discharge that is different from a healthy dog's slightly cold or damp nose. A runny nose is a common symptom of many medical conditions. The color and consistency of the discharge might indicate more about the dog's health. If the discharge becomes yellow or green and thicker than the discharge from a typical runny nose, this may be a symptom of a separate infection. 


Along with a runny nose, dogs with Kennel Cough may consistently sneeze throughout the day. Pet parents should listen closely to the sneezes to make sure their dog is actually sneezing and not reverse sneezing, as mentioned above. Reverse sneezing is common in healthy, small dog breeds. Watery eyes and eye discharge may accompany the runny nose and sneezing. Pet parents can wipe away any discharge with a warm washcloth to keep their dog comfortable and clean.  

How to Properly Treat Dogs With Kennel Cough 

Kennel Cough treatment is easily accessible, especially for otherwise healthy dogs. It is recommended that pet parents report their dog's cough to an online vet, especially before or after the pet has been exposed to other dogs not from their household. An in-person veterinary exam, if available, can easily diagnose the disease and treat dogs quickly with antibiotics, home treatments, or symptom management. 

In addition to prescribed medication, pet parents can keep their dogs comfortable by offering plenty of food and cold water and ensuring that they have a cozy space to rest. Steam therapy or a warm bath can also help to break up the mucus. Simply ensure the pet is not exposed to high temperatures longer than 15 minutes at a time to reduce risk of dehydration or dog heat exhaustion. 


Bacterial or viral infections, specifically Bordetella bacteria, are often times the cause of Kennel Cough. A veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to kill the potential bacterial infection and to prevent the possibility of a secondary infection or reinfection. 

There are different categories for dog antibiotics, just as there are for human antibiotics. Pet parents should feel comfortable talking with a vet about the varieties, benefits, and side effects of antibiotics. 

Antibiotics might not be necessary in all cases of Kennel Cough. If a pup does get Kennel Cough, it’s not guaranteed that all dogs in the household will also get sick from Kennel Cough. Antibiotics have traditionally been overused or misused in treating non-lethal pet illnesses like Kennel Cough, so it may be more appropriate to allow a dog’s immune system to combat the virus and symptoms first. Similar to when people catch the common cold, with rest and time, it can run its course and a full recovery is achievable. A veterinarian can assess a dog’s specific situation and make the most appropriate treatment recommendations.

Cough Suppressants 

Symptoms may linger for one to three weeks even after the infection has healed. The persistent, dry cough associated with Kennel Cough can be uncomfortable for dogs and can interrupt the sleep needed for the healing process. A veterinarian may prescribe a cough suppressant or cough medicine to ease the symptoms of Kennel Cough. 

Steam Therapy

In addition to prescribed medication, pet parents can keep their dogs comfortable by offering plenty of food and cold water and ensuring that they have a cozy space to rest. Steam therapy or a warm bath can also help to break up the mucus. Simply ensure the pet is not exposed to high temperatures longer than 15 minutes at a time to reduce risk of dehydration or dog heat exhaustion. 

Treatment Options: Kennel Cough Vaccines 

Preventative health care is important for dogs and pet parents can take steps to try to prevent Kennel Cough. There is a vaccine available that can prevent Kennel Cough, rather Bordetella bacteria, one of the most common causes of the disease. Many kennels, groomers, and other places that house multiple dogs at one time will require dogs to have the vaccine in order to prevent the disease from becoming more widespread. The vaccine requires an annual booster. 

The vaccine may not prevent other causes of the disease outside of the Bordetella bacteria, but it will prove the most effective in reducing a dog’s risk or severity should they contract it via other means. However, steps can still be taken to prevent the contraction and spread of Kennel Cough. If a dog has been boarded or taken to a groomer, it is best to disinfect any bedding or blankets that went with the dog. Pet parents can bring their own food and water bowls when traveling or to the dog park as many Kennel Cough-causing viruses can survive on surfaces. 

Pet parents should discuss their concerns with a licensed and qualified pet health professional if they think their dog may have been exposed to Kennel Cough or is displaying possible symptoms. Fuzzy members have access to 24/7 online vet support for such questions. Reach out to get in touch with a vet to see whether a dog may be experiencing symptoms that require further medical attention and treatment. 

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