A Labrador looking towards the sky
A Labrador looking towards the sky

Kennel Cough 

Kennel Cough is caused by a combination of highly infectious viruses and bacteria. 

The bacteria are responsible for the paralysis of the small hairs (cilia) that line the airway, which normally help to stop dust and foreign particles from entering the lungs. This results in irritation of the windpipe and results in the cough.

Kennel Cough is highly contagious so do not take your dog to mix with others if you suspect it has contracted the condition, however mildly affected. 


The most obvious is a hacking cough that can sound as if your dog has something stuck in its throat. This can result in the production of white froth or mucus.

Other than the cough, generally healthy dogs may not be too ill; they may have a mild temperature and be a little off their food.

However, in very young/old or dogs which have an existing illness, Kennel Cough can be more severe and develop into pneumonia. There are also different strains of the infection which can be more severe than others.

How can dogs catch Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough will spread rapidly in the air or by direct contact with a group of dogs in the right conditions. Such as:

  • Close contact with other dogs; for instance, in kennels or backs of trucks
  • Exercise, excitement and exposure to cold air stimulates the cough and spreads the viruses and bacteria
  • High levels of humidity, such as foggy mornings, warm and poorly ventilated kennels
  • Stressful situations such as boarding kennels or lots of barking
  • Mixing with dogs of uncertain or no vaccination history

What do you do if your dog has Kennel Cough?

Firstly, avoid mixing with other dogs which aren’t your own. Unfortunately, by the time the cough is evident, all of your dogs are likely to have been exposed.

Always consult a vet when you suspect your dog of having Kennel Cough. In most cases, the vet will give the dog something to suppress the cough, which reduces further damage to the airway.

Do not take your dog to meet others until it has completely stopped coughing, which can be anywhere from five days to a month.

Preventing Kennel Cough

Some of the viruses which cause Kennel Cough are contained in the basic vaccinations required by puppies and the subsequent “boosters”.

However, Bordetella bronchiseptica is not included but can be given as a separate vaccination which is often given nasally. It is this vaccine which is required by many boarding kennels before a dog can stay with them.

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