Kennel Cough

Dogs are social and everyone’s a friend! We love this friendly side, but interaction means they’re going to be exposed to respiratory pathogens. Just as being in an airplane exposes humans to respiratory disease – there’s no way for your dog to avoid the coughs and contamination.

What is Kennel Cough:

Kennel Cough is coughing due to an infectious agent. It seldom causes the loss of life, but it does last 3 weeks and keeps us up at night. The later is why people typically take them to the Veterinarian – they wake us up at night! Canine infectious respiratory disease complex - another name for kennel cough, is caused by many different infections. Early distemper looks like kennel cough as does 12 other organisms. The key is preventing it from getting a foothold.

How Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough:

Being social, dogs share their space with other dogs readily and they share their bugs as well! A common area where they socialize and are exposed to coughing bacteria is the boarding kennel – and how the name came to be. Exposure happens at:
  • Boarding kennels
  • Groomers
  • Dog parks
  • Veterinary clinics
  • Dog shows
  • Any other place that dogs are within 15 feet of each other when they cough
You can see the need for insurance against coughing!


Coughing dogs usually have secondary bacterial infections and that is the focus of the treatment. The cough has to run its course. Be aware that the support you give in treatment is just that – support until the puppy can remove the virus from the body and heal the sore throat.

Treatment involves:
  • Antibiotics - Doxycycline is our choice
  • Cough Suppressants - Cough Tablets are effective.
    • You do not want to stop the cough, just slow it down. Puppies will cough so much that they make their throats sore, which makes them cough even more!
  • Nutrition
    • These guys have sore throats so be sure the tiny dogs are eating regularly. We don't want to deal with hypoglycemia as well.
  • Other Remedies -
    • We often put Vicks or Eucalyptus oil on a cloth and let the puppy sleep with it. We find the tiny dog breaths easier and sleeps better.


With respiratory disease transmitted so easily, preventing through vaccination is the best control. Kennel Cough vaccines will reduce the chance of diseases and includes protection against the three most common causes:
  • Adenovirus
  • Parainfluenza
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
Influenza is now an issue in dogs and can be prevented with vaccination. If you show dogs, you can expect this vaccine to be required in the future to enter the show arena.

Yearly vaccination also includes protection against distemper preventing coughing and neurologic disease distemper causes. That brings us to 5 diseases we vaccinate for that can cause coughing. These are the “bad boys” we want to get and we ask the dogs to handle the minor ones. Coughing for one or two days then stopping is our goal.

Prevention Through Disinfection:

An important part of any disease prevention plan is disinfection. Disinfectants keep your dog’s living areas clean and free of bacteria and viruses that cause disease. If they never get a large dose of a respiratory virus, your dog will handle the issue easily. Large doses of the viruses will always bring disease just as coughing in your face gives you a cold every time!

Most disinfectants that get Parvo virus are effective against Kennel Cough. Our preference is Trifectant®, OXINE®, and Accel®. OXINE® can be used in a fogger to decrease the bugs in kennels or boarding facilities and is often used in pet shops safely. Though it does not penetrate, household bleach at 1:30 dilution is an effective disinfectant for your pet’s crates, food and water bowls, or sleeping area.

Coughing is rarely life threatening to a puppy, but the constant coughing will drive you crazy and keep you up at night. Once started, the cough lingers three weeks and is not easily treated. Eliminate the risk by vaccinating them with a kennel cough vaccine. You and your puppy will sleep easier if you do!

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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