Sick dog laying down under a blanket.

Key takeaway

Kennel cough is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs that’s caused by exposure to infected canines. If your dog has kennel cough, it may go away on its own in a week or two. Make sure to schedule an appointment with your vet if your dog shows symptoms. Vaccination can be an effective way to prevent kennel cough.

Kennel cough is an extremely contagious respiratory disease that dogs can get when they come in contact with another infected dog. Dogs with kennel cough may show several symptoms, including coughing, sneezing, and runny nose. If you notice your dog has a dry cough and is displaying other symptoms, it’s a good idea to take them to the vet for a diagnosis.

In most cases, kennel cough isn’t a serious medical issue and can be treated within a week or two. Making sure your dog gets plenty of rest is an important part of kennel cough treatment, but the most important thing is taking your dog to the vet to figure out what’s wrong with them. If you’ve seen your dog coughing and wheezing or showing other signs of kennel cough, here’s what you should know.

What Is Canine Kennel Cough?1

Canine kennel cough is a respiratory disease that’s highly contagious among dogs. In many cases, dogs contract kennel cough due to spending time in a confined space with several other dogs, such as a daycare or dog boarding facility. Your dog may also get kennel cough if they hang out at dog parks, training groups, or other areas where various dogs congregate.

Kennel cough spreads via airborne droplets, direct contact, and infected surfaces. Often, dogs with the disease spread kennel cough to other dogs as a result of coughing and sneezing. However, kennel cough can also spread when dogs touch noses or make direct contact. Further, dogs can get kennel cough by sharing the same food bowl, water bowl, or chew toy.

The good news about kennel cough is that it’s typically treatable, especially if your dog is healthy and older than six months. The most severe cases of kennel cough usually occur in puppies who are six months of age or younger.

Infographic of the symptoms of canine kennel cough.

Kennel Cough Symptoms in Dogs

Recognizing what the symptoms of kennel cough are is important for pet parents. If your dog gets sick, it’s best to take them to the vet and get them started on a treatment plan as soon as possible. While kennel cough isn’t generally a serious concern, symptoms may worsen and last longer if nothing is done.

Coughing is one of the main symptoms of kennel cough in dogs, but that’s far from the only symptom that canines with this illness experience. Here are some of the symptoms you might spot if your dog has kennel cough1:

  • Forceful, “honking” cough: The cough caused by kennel cough is a little different from the coughs you may hear from your dog otherwise. Kennel cough tends to cause a dry “honking” cough.
  • Sneezing: Dogs with kennel cough may also sneeze, which is one of the ways kennel cough can spread between dogs. If your dog has kennel cough and is sneezing regularly, make sure you keep them away from other dogs so it doesn’t spread.
  • Lethargy: Kennel cough can also cause changes in behavior, including lethargy. If your dog is lethargic and you notice a dry cough, take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Sick dog with no appetite laying on the floor next to a food bowl.

  • Loss of appetite: Kennel cough may cause some dogs to lose their appetite, so they may not eat because they’re sick. If your dog has a reduced appetite for several days, make sure you take them to the vet since a loss of appetite can indicate a serious medical condition.
  • Runny nose: It’s not uncommon for dogs with kennel cough to develop a runny nose, although this symptom isn't present in all dogs. If your dog has a runny nose, try to ensure their nose doesn’t get dry and irritated.
  • Low fever: A low fever is one of the common kennel cough symptoms in dogs. If you think your dog has kennel cough, you should check their temperature to see if they’re running a fever.

Keep in mind that there are several medical conditions that may cause symptoms similar to kennel cough. Monitoring your dog and talking to your vet about the symptoms they’re experiencing is important. Fortunately, telemedicine for pets makes it easy to speak with a vet from the comfort of your home. With Dutch, you can schedule a video chat with a vet to talk about the symptoms your dog is experiencing and whether they should see a vet or not.

Kennel Cough Treatment

Treating kennel cough in dogs starts with getting a diagnosis. As soon as you recognize the symptoms of kennel cough in your dog, you should call a vet or bring your dog in for an exam. While there’s no specific test that can diagnose kennel cough in dogs, your vet can look at the symptoms your dog is experiencing and their recent exposure to other dogs to make an adequate diagnosis.

Once you know your dog has kennel cough, your vet will typically recommend a week or two of rest to treat mild cases of the illness.1 If that’s the case, make sure your dog has plenty of food and water and a stress-free environment where they can relax and get better.

In other instances, your vet may prescribe antibiotics to make sure your dog doesn’t get another infection as a result of kennel cough. This is especially important in dogs who have a chronic disease that makes them more susceptible to infections or one that makes those infections more impactful. Doxycycline is one of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics for kennel cough, but you should talk to your vet about what’s best for your dog.2

Infographic of how to manage kennel cough symptoms.

No matter what route you go in terms of treating kennel cough in dogs, there are certain guidelines you should follow to help your dog get better3:

  • Make sure your dog has plenty of food and water
  • Keep your dog away from airborne irritants, such as smoke and dust
  • Try a humidifier or vaporizer
  • Create a stress-free environment where your dog can relax
  • If you walk your dog, make sure you use a harness instead of a collar

Preventing Kennel Cough in Dogs

Like canine distemper, preventing kennel cough starts with a vaccine. Getting your dog vaccinated is one of the best ways to prevent kennel cough in dogs, but it’s not always necessary. While vaccination can help prevent kennel cough in dogs, getting vaccinated is most important for dogs who spend a lot of time in training groups, boarding facilities, or daycare facilities.1

Infographic of locations where kennel cough is commonly spread.

Because kennel cough is caused by exposure to infected canines, limiting your dog’s exposure to other pups is an important part of preventing kennel cough. If your dog does spend a lot of time at a boarding or daycare facility, make sure you choose a facility that requires all dogs to be vaccinated for kennel cough. If you notice symptoms of kennel cough, talk to your vet right away to get a diagnosis.

Dog Kennel Cough Symptoms: Frequently Asked Questions

How long until kennel cough symptoms show after exposure?

Like many illnesses, kennel cough symptoms in dogs typically don’t become present for a few days after exposure. In most cases, the symptoms of kennel cough in dogs start to show two to three days after infection, with some cases taking as long as ten days for symptoms to appear.2 As a pet parent, you should always keep a close eye on your pets to make sure you know when something is wrong and it’s time to call a vet.

How can I manage kennel cough symptoms at home?

Often, vets advise pet owners to simply let the symptoms of kennel cough run their course until their dog gets better. Most of the time, the symptoms of kennel cough will subside as the infection goes away, and dogs will stop experiencing symptoms after a week or two. If your dog is experiencing severe symptoms as a result of kennel cough, you can try using a humidifier, making sure your dog gets plenty of water, and switching to a harness instead of a collar for walks.3

Do kennel cough symptoms go away on their own?

While kennel cough can be uncomfortable for dogs, it’s not typically considered a serious medical issue. Kennel cough symptoms typically go away in as little as 10-14 days after infection.2 If your dog has kennel cough or you think they might have kennel cough, monitor their symptoms and let your vet know if their condition gets worse. You can manage symptoms at home with a humidifier and ample hydration, but you should talk to your vet if your dog isn’t getting any better or their condition worsens after several days.

In any case, taking your dog to the vet will allow you to get a proper diagnosis and administer the correct treatment.

Can a dog have kennel cough with no symptoms?

Dogs typically experience symptoms with kennel cough, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, dogs can have kennel cough for several months without experiencing any symptoms, which can put other dogs in danger if they’re exposed to that infected dog.4 Taking your dog to the vet for regular checkups is an important part of making sure your dog is healthy.

Final Notes

Canine kennel cough is a fairly common condition in dogs, but it can be prevented with a vaccine. Getting your dog vaccinated is especially important if they spend a lot of time in a boarding or daycare facility. While kennel cough typically resolves in a week or two, you should see a vet if your dog’s symptoms become worse.

Dutch makes it easy to get the veterinary support you need for coughing caused by allergies, which can get confused for kennel cough symptoms in dogs. With Dutch, you can schedule an online video chat to get vet help from the comfort of your home. You can even get your vet prescription fulfilled through an affiliated pharmacy. When you need vet help, Dutch is a click away.

References

  1. Staff, AKC. “Kennel Cough in Dogs – Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 12 Nov. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/kennel-cough-symptoms-treatment-and-prevention/.   

  2. “Kennel Cough: Causes, Signs, Diagnosis, Treatment.” Best Friends Animal Society, https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/kennel-cough-causes-signs-diagnosis-treatment

  3. “Common Dog Diseases.” ASPCA, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-diseases.

  4. “Kennel Cough.” Blue Cross, https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/kennel-cough.