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A guide to Kennel Cough!

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

Kennel cough is a common illness in dogs. It can spread through animal shelters, doggie daycare facilities, and even pet grooming salons. This highly contagious upper respiratory infection is spread by an airborne virus. The virus can also be spread by canine contact or through infected toys as well as food and water dishes. This virus can be further complicated when an infected animal gets a secondary bacterial infection.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough:

  • Dry hacking cough

  • Bouts of heavy coughing

  • Gagging after coughing

  • Foamy mucus after coughing or gagging

  • Lack of fever (or only a low-grade fever) with the cough

How to treat Kennel Cough

If your dog is showing signs of kennel cough you will want to isolate them from other dogs as much as possible and get them an appointment with the vet. At the vet, your dog will get a quick exam to confirm the diagnosis.

Kennel cough is generally treated with medication. Sometimes antibiotics will be needed to treat a secondary bacterial infection too.

The vet will also make sure your dog doesn’t have a fever. Since kennel cough usually does not come with a fever the doctor will be making sure your dog doesn’t have canine influenza or another more serious illness.

Although kennel cough is easily treatable in healthy dogs, Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM, a columnist for AKC Family Dog, explains that it’s important to report a coughing symptom to your veterinarian because it could be a sign of a more serious disease.

“The canine distemper virus and canine influenza virus both start off with symptoms nearly identical to kennel cough,” he said. Other conditions that can cause coughing, include a collapsing trachea, bronchitis, asthma, and even heart disease.

How to prevent Kennel Cough

While you can’t eliminate your dog’s risk of kennel cough there are several things you can do to help prevent it. These include:

  1. Getting appropriately vaccinated

If your dog is around a lot of other dogs, you will want to ensure your dog is vaccinated. Most puppies get two doses of the vaccine. A lot of doggie daycares and boarding facilities will also require a booster either annually or every 6 months. Speak with the facility and your vet to ensure your dog is being vaccinated appropriately to mitigate the risk.

  1. Avoiding being in the same area as a sick dog

Kennel cough is airborne, so no matter how clean a facility is your pet can still get sick if they come in contact with another sick dog. If you know a dog that has kennel cough, steer clear until they’ve been treated. Check with your vet to find out how long you need to avoid the other dog.