Kennel Cough

Our expert vet explains the signs, treatments and prevention options for this common and contagious dog illness.

By | Posted: March 11, 2012, 9 a.m. EST


What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough, Infectious Tracheobronchitis, is a bacterial infection of the upper airways that is highly contagious among dogs. Although there is a typical harsh honking type of cough, sometimes the coughing seems more like gagging or vomiting.

Important things to know:

  • Kennel Cough is very common among young dogs and puppies, but older dogs get it too
  • Usually there has been exposure to other dogs that potentially have kennel cough
  • In many cases, it will clear up on its own in 3 to 4 days

Dogs with Kennel Cough do not act sick. They are their usual active selves, eating and drinking, but coughing up a storm. Dog owners may want to have a designated digital thermometer to take their dog's temperature rectally- dogs with kennel cough do not have a fever (> 102.0). If your dog is coughing and acting ill, contact your veterinarian.

Treatment options:

Although most kennel cough will eventually clear up on its own, antibiotics can often speed up recovery and minimize the duration of time the dog is contagious to other dogs. Some dogs will get a cough that is very persistent, and may require cough medicine to help break the cough cycle.


There are two vaccines that help prevent kennel cough, but neither is 100% effective. An injectable Bordetella vaccine can provide about 6 months protection, but takes two weeks to work once it is given. An intranasal vaccine is almost immediately protective, but only lasts several months.


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59Linda   Virginia Beach, VA

6/2/2016 5:02:54 PM

I rescued my dog from a shelter, He was administered the intranasal bordetella vaccine. He caught kennel cough from that vaccine. The vaccine was in January of this year. He is still coughing 5 months later. He has a 2 courses of antibiotics and he has been on and off of Trimeperazine/Prednisone ever since. Without that he coughs. His lungs and heart are good. No problems there. We are trying benadryl while weaning him off the Trimperazine/Prednisone. He coughs some, but not as much. Im at my wits end on what to do with my little baby.

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Autum - 297511   Caldwell, ID

4/1/2015 6:26:14 PM

I thought the vaccine lasted longer than that; good to know!

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terry   International

2/2/2015 12:12:36 PM

please call it canine cough, dogs may have picked it up at the vet, doggy daycare, classes or just from another dog through a fence.

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