Imagine the scene: You’re enjoying a peaceful evening at home when suddenly, you notice your beloved canine companion coughing persistently. It’s not the usual tickle or occasional cough they get from excitement or drinking water too fast; this is something different, something more frequent and concerning.

Your mind races with questions, the foremost being, “Is this serious?” This scenario is all too familiar for many dog owners and often marks the first encounter with a common ailment known as kennel cough.

Kennel cough, formally known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is akin to a cold in humans but affects our canine friends. It’s characterized by a strong, persistent cough that can sound like a goose honk.

This condition is highly contagious among dogs, spreading through airborne droplets, direct contact, or shared items like water bowls and toys.

Most cases of kennel cough are mild and resolve on their own, but the question remains: Can kennel cough be fatal if left untreated?

It’s crucial for dog owners to understand the potential severity of this condition, not to induce panic, but to encourage a proactive approach to their pet’s health.


What is Kennel Cough?

At its core, kennel cough is an inflammation of the dog’s windpipe and voice box.

Symptoms can include not only the hallmark cough but also sneezing, runny nose, lethargy, loss of appetite, and, in severe cases, a low fever.

Though the term “kennel cough” may imply that it’s only a risk for dogs that spend time in kennels, the reality is that any dog can contract it, especially those that are highly social or frequent dog parks and other communal canine areas.

Kennel cough can be caused by several viruses and bacteria, with the most common culprits being the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria and the canine parainfluenza virus. These pathogens can attack individually or together, complicating the diagnosis and treatment.


The Potential Consequences of Untreated Kennel Cough

While kennel cough is often mild and many dogs recover without the need for medical intervention, untreated cases can escalate, leading to serious complications. This risk is particularly high in puppies, elderly dogs, and those with underlying health conditions, as their immune systems may not be robust enough to fight off the infection.

Complications can include pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, and, in rare instances, can be fatal (capable of causing death).


Recognizing the signs of a worsening condition is key to preventing these serious outcomes. If your dog’s cough becomes more severe or is accompanied by difficulty breathing, lethargy, a significant decrease in appetite, or a fever, it’s time to see the vet.

These symptoms indicate that the infection may have progressed to the lungs or that a secondary infection has taken hold, both of which require prompt medical attention.

How is Kennel Cough Treated?

When it comes to treating kennel cough, the approach often involves a combination of rest, isolation, and, depending on the severity and cause of the infection, medication.

Rest is crucial for helping your dog recover from kennel cough. Just like humans need plenty of rest when recovering from a cold or flu, dogs also benefit from a quiet, comfortable space where they can relax and recuperate.

Isolation is equally important, not just for the sake of your own dog’s recovery, but to prevent the spread of the infection to other dogs. If you have multiple pets or if your dog is a frequent visitor to dog parks or daycare, keeping them separated from other dogs during their recovery period is a must.


In terms of medication, antibiotics may be prescribed if the kennel cough is bacterial in nature. However, it’s important to note that antibiotics will not be effective against viral causes of kennel cough.

Cough suppressants may also be recommended to provide relief from the persistent, dry cough that characterizes this condition.

Nevertheless, medication should only be administered under the guidance of a veterinarian to ensure the correct diagnosis and treatment plan.

Preventative Measures

Preventing kennel cough is often more straightforward than treating it.

Vaccination plays a critical role in prevention, with vaccines available against some of the most common pathogens responsible for kennel cough, including Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine parainfluenza virus.

While no vaccine offers 100% protection due to the multitude of pathogens that can cause kennel cough, vaccination can significantly reduce the severity and duration of the disease.


In addition to vaccination, minimizing exposure to the disease is key. This can be achieved by avoiding crowded dog areas, especially during outbreaks of kennel cough, and maintaining good hygiene practices, such as washing hands and cleaning and disinfecting pet items regularly.

It’s also wise to be cautious about where you board your dog or choose daycare facilities, opting for those with good hygiene practices and vaccination policies.

When to See a Vet

Understanding when to consult a vet is vital in managing kennel cough effectively. While mild cases may resolve on their own, certain signs indicate the need for professional medical advice.

These include persistent cough lasting more than a week, lethargy, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, or the presence of green or yellow nasal discharge, which could indicate a secondary bacterial infection.

Early intervention is key to preventing more serious complications, such as pneumonia. A veterinarian can offer a definitive diagnosis and tailor a treatment plan to your dog’s specific needs, ensuring a swift and effective recovery.

By adhering to these guidelines – prompt treatment, preventative measures, and knowing when to seek veterinary care – you can help ensure your dog remains happy, healthy, and, most importantly, safe from the potentially serious complications of kennel cough.


How long does kennel cough last?

Kennel cough typically lasts between 1 to 3 weeks. However, this duration can vary based on the dog’s overall health and immune system strength. It’s important to note that dogs can remain contagious for several weeks after the symptoms have subsided.

Can humans catch kennel cough from their dogs?

Kennel cough is primarily a canine disease and the risk of transmission to humans is extremely low. However, individuals with compromised immune systems should exercise caution and maintain good hygiene when caring for a dog with kennel cough.

Is kennel cough contagious to other pets?

Yes, kennel cough is highly contagious among dogs. It is spread through airborne droplets produced when an infected dog coughs or sneezes, direct contact, and contaminated surfaces. Cats can catch certain strains of the bacteria responsible for kennel cough, but this is rare.

How can I comfort my dog during their recovery?

Ensuring your dog has a quiet, comfortable place to rest is vital. Keep them warm and away from drafty areas. Provide plenty of fresh water to keep them hydrated and consider using a humidifier to help soothe their irritated respiratory tract.

Also, avoid using a collar and leash, opting for a harness instead to prevent pressure on their throat.

Are certain dog breeds more susceptible to kennel cough?

Kennel cough can affect any dog, regardless of breed. However, puppies, elderly dogs, and those with underlying health issues are more at risk of developing severe complications from kennel cough due to their weaker immune systems.


Recognizing the signs of kennel cough and seeking timely treatment are crucial steps in ensuring your dog’s quick recovery and preventing the spread of the infection. Kennel cough, while common, can lead to severe complications if left untreated, especially in dogs that are very young, very old, or immunocompromised.

Understanding the symptoms, knowing the vital role of vaccinations in prevention, and recognizing when to consult a vet are key measures every dog owner should be aware of. Vaccination, good hygiene practices, and minimizing exposure to crowded dog areas are effective strategies to prevent kennel cough.

With the appropriate care and attention, most dogs recover from kennel cough without any serious issues. The journey through kennel cough is not just about medical treatment but also about providing comfort, love, and reassurance to your furry friend during their recovery period.

Remember, your awareness and action can make all the difference. Ensuring your dog is vaccinated, keeping an eye out for symptoms, and consulting a vet when necessary are the pillars of responsible pet ownership.

With these measures in place, you can help your dog bounce back from kennel cough, ready to enjoy many more happy, healthy years by your side.

Categories: Kennel Cough

Doctor Xeeshan

Doctor Xeeshan

I am Doctor Xeeshan, located in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. In this blog, I am providing authentic information about dog breeds, diseases, medications, etc.


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