What is Kennel Cough?

by Velvetanne CPDT-KA

Kennel cough is a canine infectious tracheobronchitis that dogs commonly contract.

It is not a serious condition of which most dogs recover without treatment. There are cases, however, where a dog may have other existing health issues, thus kennel cough may cause secondary illnesses that may require medical attention.

Also, most dogs will experience kennel cough at least once in their lifetime, especially if they attend a kennel, daycare, grooming facility, training centre, off leash park, etc.

Kennel cough in dogs is similar to the common cold or flu in humans. How a dog contracts kennel cough is by inhaling the airborne bacterium called Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is why kennel cough is often called Bordetella.

Most dogs that become infected with Bordetella are also infected with one or more airborne viruses at the same time such as canine adenovirus, canine distemper virus, canine herpes virus, parainfluenza virus and canine reovirus.

Causes of Kennel Cough

Dogs develop kennel cough when they inhale particular bacteria or virus particles into their respiratory tract. This tract is normally lined with a coating of mucus that traps infectious particles, but there are a number of factors that can weaken this protection and make dogs prone to kennel cough resulting in inflammation of the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe).

These factors include:

  • Exposure to a large number of dogs in an enclosed area such as a kennel, daycare, grooming shop, training facility, vet’s office, dog show, breeding facility, pet store, animal shelter, etc.
  • Exposure to a large number of dogs in non-enclosed areas, such as off leash parks, etc.
  • Exposure to a single infected dog while leash walking, sniffing another dog through a fence, while on a play date, etc.
  • Poorly ventilated areas
  • Cold temperatures
  • Exposure to dust or cigarette smoke
  • Stress including travel induced stress

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

The classic symptom of kennel cough in dogs is a persistent, forceful cough that sounds like the dog is choking or hacking on something. It can also sound like a goose honking.

This is distinct from a cough-like sound made by some dogs, especially little ones, which is called a reverse sneeze. Reverse sneezes can be normal in certain dogs and breeds, and usually only indicates the presence of post-nasal drip or a slight irritation of the throat.

Some dogs with kennel cough may show other symptoms of illness, including sneezing, a runny nose, or eye discharge. Dogs with kennel cough normally do not lose their appetite or experience a decreased energy level.

Incubation period

The incubation period (when a dog contracts the virus to when symptoms show) can be 3 – 14 days.

Most dogs with kennel cough recover completely within 2 – 3 weeks, although it can take up to six weeks in puppies and older dogs, or those with other medical conditions, suppressed immune systems, and/or immature immune systems.

Treating and Preventing Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is an airborne contagious illness for canines. If you think your dog might have the condition, you should keep him away from all other dogs including kennels, daycares, grooming shops, training facilities, dog shows, pet stores, off leash parks, play dates, or any place other dogs may be.

Just as with children, it is not always possible or realistic that your dog never be around other dogs, and because of this, it is very likely your dog will eventually contract kennel cough, especially if your dog does attend a kennel or daycare.

Although most cases of kennel cough will resolve without treatment, medications may speed recovery or minimize symptoms during the course of infection. These include antibiotics that target Bordetella bacteria, and cough medicines.

If your dog does contract kennel cough, provide your dog with a humidifier to help easier breathing and use a harness instead of a collar when going for walks.

Because serious, ongoing kennel cough infection can lead to secondary infections, be sure to follow up with your veterinarian if your dog doesn’t improve within the expected amount of time.

Also, if your dog at any time has symptoms of rapid breathing, not eating, or listlessness, contact your vet right away, as these could be signs of a more serious condition.

There is a vaccine for your dog to prevent kennel cough, but because the vaccine does not protect against the hundreds of different strains of the illness, the vaccine does not guarantee your dog will never contract kennel cough.

Raising Canine and Kennel Cough

Raising Canine does everything possible to keep our daycare, grooming and training facility, clean and disinfected, including water bowls, wading pools, blankets, and toys.

Our staff are trained to follow Raising Canine’s detailed Policy and Process Manual regarding cleaning and disinfecting of which the staff are regularly evaluated during their Staff Performance Review. Failure to follow the Policy and Process Manual can lead to termination of employment.

We also keep our facility well ventilated on a daily basis. On top of that, our ventilation system is professionally cleaned.

We also have an outdoor area for the dogs to regularly play outside in the fresh air. The outdoor area is regularly cleaned and disinfected as well.

We also have a policy that should staff detect that a dog has kennel cough after being dropped off by the owner, the owner is immediately contacted to pick up their dog to take back home. The owner is also informed to keep their dog at home until a vet has deemed him/her non-contagious and fit to return to daycare.

Raising Canine also practices due diligence and requires all dogs in our care to have a kennel cough vaccination even though we are aware the vaccine is not foolproof against the illness.

Even though we try very hard to prevent kennel cough, we unfortunately cannot guarantee that your dog will never contract it while in our facility. In fact, there is a high possibility that your dog will contract kennel cough at least once while in our care due to the fact we house several dogs at once. This is the same for all daycares and kennels in Calgary. This, unfortunately, is the nature of the dog business.

It is the same as sending your child to daycare or school, or you going into your work place, in which it can never be guaranteed your child and/or you will never contract the common cold or flu.

If you notice your dog does symptoms of kennel cough, please call us immediately at 403.984.3644 so we can inform the other clients.

Also please remember that if your dog does have kennel cough, please let him/her recover at home and away from Raising Canine until deemed non-contagious by your vet.

If you have any questions regarding Raising Canine and kennel cough, please feel free to contact our manager, Chanelle Van Entwerpen at 403.984.3644, and/or our Owner, Velvetanne Madro at 403.818.3383.