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Kennel Cough in Dogs

Written By Wag! Staff
Published: 09/30/2015Updated: 12/13/2023
Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
Kennel Cough in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough, or canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is an umbrella term used to describe a group of viral and bacterial infections that cause inflammation of the throat and other upper respiratory symptoms. Kennel cough is akin to a human chest cold and usually goes away without complications.

Although kennel cough usually clears up on its own, it can be uncomfortable for your canine pal. These illnesses are highly contagious, hence the name kennel cough, since it spreads quickly through boarding kennels and grooming facilities. Don't be fooled though, even those who have never been kennelled can catch the infection.

Occasionally, Kennel Cough can cause more severe symptoms such as fever and nasal discharge, especially in at-risk groups. Young puppies, senior animals, and immunocompromised animals are at the highest risk for Kennel Cough complications, and severe cases can lead to pneumonia or even death.

So, how long does Kennel Cough last? What causes it? And how can you treat it? Keep reading for all these answers and more.

Kennel Cough Average Cost

From 45 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000

Average Cost

$650

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Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Dogs

Symptoms of tracheobronchitis can arise anywhere from 2-14 days after exposure.

Symptoms of mild tracheobronchitis include:

Symptoms of severe tracheobronchitis include:

Causes of Kennel Cough in Dogs

There are multiple causes of kennel cough; it can be bacterial, viral, or both, depending on what the dog has been exposed to. Most commonly, kennel cough in dogs is brought about by the parainfluenza virus or Bordetella bacteria:

  • Parainfluenza virus - Most common viral cause of tracheobronchitis. When acting alone, symptoms may last less than six days. If the dog is also infected with the Bordetella bacterium (which is not uncommon), symptoms can last up to 3 weeks.
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica – Most common bacterial cause of tracheobronchitis. Symptoms may last up to ten days if no other factors are at play (including infection with parainfluenza or other comorbid conditions.)

There are individual vaccines for both parainfluenza and bordetella in dogs, and a combo vaccine protects against both. The vaccine is not 100% effective at preventing infection, but it can decrease the risk of catching it and the severity of illness if a dog does come down with kennel cough.

How long is kennel cough contagious? 

The Bordetella bacterium can be shed from an infected animal up to 14 weeks after symptoms have resolved, making it extremely easy to spread since pet parents may end their pet's quarantine when they seem to be on the up and up.  

How is kennel cough spread?

Viral and bacterial kennel cough are spread through inhalation, direct contact with other animals, or contact with contaminated objects. 

Common locations for contracting kennel cough:

  • Kennels
  • Boarding facilities
  • Dog daycares
  • Animal shelters
  • Dog spas
  • Dog parks (water dishes)

Diagnosis of Kennel Cough in Dogs

If your pet is showing signs of kennel cough and has recently been in contact with other dogs, make an vet appointment for a check-up — even if they've been vaccinated! Remember, being vaccinated for kennel cough does not guarantee protection.

The veterinarian will take a history of your four-legged companion and want to know whether they have had any recent contact with other dogs, how long they have been demonstrating symptoms and symptom severity. This information will help to determine the kennel cough incubation period.

A physical examination will involve listening to the lungs and evaluating the coughing. They will also check them for nasal and eye discharge and take their temperature.

Diagnosis is based on the presence of symptoms, the signalment of the patient and history of exposure to other dogs. Various diagnostic tests are available to determine the causative agent, including bacterial culture and viral isolation. These tests aren't usually done unless the pet parent requests them since kennel cough symptoms are indicative of the condition and no specific therapy is indicated.

Treatment of Kennel Cough in Dogs

If your pet is diagnosed with kennel cough, treatment will depend on the severity of the condition.

Mild Tracheobronchitis 

An oral cough suppressant may be prescribed in mild cases to make your pup more comfortable and help them rest. Sometimes, vets will offer dogs a bronchodilator to expand the airways or some NSAIDs, as well. Vets may also suggest placing your dog in a room with a humidifier or a shower-steamed bathroom to provide relief. An antibiotic may or may not be prescribed, depending on the dog's history and the severity of their symptoms.

Switching to a harness rather than a collar while your pet is symptomatic is a good idea since collars put pressure on their airways and can irritate the throat and increase coughing. Improvement is typically seen within 5-7 days of starting treatment, and follow-up appointments usually aren't needed for mild cases unless symptoms continue or worsen.

Severe Tracheobronchitis 

In more severe cases, antibiotics for kennel cough, bronchodilators, and aerosol therapy will be prescribed.

Severe cases may require a weekly recheck appointment until your dog is considered stable. Report any continued or worsening symptoms to the veterinarian, as tracheobronchitis can lead to life-threatening pneumonia.

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Recovery of Kennel Cough in Dogs

Tracheobronchitis symptoms will normally resolve after 3 weeks, but senior pets, puppies, and immunocompromised pets may take up to 6 weeks to recover. The infection is contagious for up to 14 weeks after symptoms are gone, so it is important to quarantine your pet from other dogs. If your puppy has a cough, you'll need to hold off on the typical socialization activities until your vet gives the okay to resume training and doggy playdates. An older dog should only attend doggy daycare, go to the groomers, or visit the park once a veterinarian clears them and they are no longer believed to be contagious.

Annual vaccination can help prevent or lessen symptoms if an animal comes in contact with a causative agent of kennel cough. Vaccines do not totally prevent infection in all cases. It is preferable to allow 7 days after vaccination to come in contact with other dogs, although 4 days may provide some protection.



Kennel cough can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog is at risk, start searching for pet insurance today. Wag!’s pet insurance comparison tool lets you compare plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!



Kennel Cough Average Cost

From 45 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000

Average Cost

$650

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Kennel Cough Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Golden Retriever

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Nine Months

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7 found this helpful

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7 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Kennel Cough
just wondering what the cost of kennel cough medication would be. She is roughly 65lbs

Sept. 29, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

7 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Since the cost of medications vary depending on what medication your veterinarian will put your dog on, where you live, and how severe the kennel cough may be, it is difficult to say what the cost will be. Most veterinarians will put a dog with kennel cough on an antibiotic and an anti-cough medication, and those are not very expensive. I hope that all goes well for your dog.

Sept. 29, 2020

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Boston Terrier

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One Year

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9 found this helpful

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9 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Coughing
In the past 24 hours my dog has developed a cough and has progressively turned into more of the honking cough and recently been coughing up white foam.

Aug. 7, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

9 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Kennel cough is a common cause in young dogs of a haunting type cough, and it can cause them to bring up a white foam substance. If the cough is getting worse, and is not improving over a day or two, or if it is making it so that your dog cannot sleep or eat, then it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as you may need therapy. If you do need to have him seen, your veterinarian will be able to examine him and see if that is what's going on, and give treatment if needed. I hope that all goes well for your dog.

Aug. 8, 2020

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Kennel Cough Average Cost

From 45 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000

Average Cost

$650

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Get a free pet insurance quote in less than 60 seconds!

Easily compare quotes from the most trusted pet insurance companies in the United States.

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