Kennel Cough in Dogs

Kennel Cough is a bacterial infection caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria. It is related to Bordetella Pertusis and Bordetella Parapertussis bacteria which is known to cause ‘Whooping Cough’ in humans. It is also known as Bordetellosis, Kennel Cough, Canine Infectious Trachea Bronchitis (ITB) and Bordetella Bronchiseptica.

Dogs are susceptible to respiratory infections be it viral or bacterial. It is a highly contagious bacterial infection which affects the upper respiratory tract (URT – consists of the nose, throat and sinus area). Kennel Cough causes inflammation of the trachea and bronchi.

Bordetella bronchiseptica has a global distribution – it is present everywhere. It can survive for up-to 2 weeks in the environment.

It is known to affect a variety of animals, domestic animals, farm animals, companion animals including dogs and cats. The most common sources of this infection are rescue shelters, kennels, areas with a very high canine population or high density pet areas.

Bordetella is a rare ZOONOTIC disease – which means humans can easily get affected from an infected animal.

Young dogs especially puppies (age between 6 to 9 weeks) are at high risk, immuno compromised dogs, senior dogs, pregnant bitches, dogs with pre-existing respiratory conditions are at risk. Canine Adenovirus(CAV-1) or Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH), Canine Herpesvirus Infection (CHV), Canine Influenza Virus (CIV), Canine Parainfluenza virus (CPIV), Reovirus, Mycoplasma are also known to cause Kennel Cough.


Kennel Cough is caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria.

The primary mode of transmission in from inhalation. Inhaling particles from contaminated materials such as food bowls, beddings, toys, furniture, from direct contact with nasal secretions, sneeze droplets, saliva, direct contact with infected pets, kennels, catteries, multipet household and from low immunity response (existing conditions involving the respiratory tract).

Clinical Sins & Symptoms

The incubation period for Kennel Cough is between 3 to 10 days. Common symptoms seen are:

› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› Pyrexia (Fever)
› Depression
› Lethargy
› Rhinitis (sneezing)
› Dyspnea (Trouble Breathing)
› Tachypnea (Rapid Breathing Rate)
› Coughing
› lymphadenitis (swelling of lymph nodes)
› Recurrent nasal discharges / runny nose
› Honk-like cough
› Weakness
› Ptyalism (Hyper-salivation or Drooling)
› Mouth ulcers / Oral ulcers


Veterinarians will require a complete history of your dog which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests which can detect the presence of the bacteria. They are:

› Physical examination
› Biochemical profile
› Complete Blood Count (CBC) – This will show an increased number of neutrophils
› Urinalysis
› PCR test (Polymerase Chain Reaction)
› Bacterial culture test (done by taking swab samples from the throat, pharynx)


Kennel Cough can be successfully treated but this depends on the severity of the infection. Untreated bordetella can progress to pneumonia and other secondary illnesses.

Treatment consists of:
› Antibiotic medications
› Drugs to treat secondary illnesses and diseases
› Fluid therapy
› Use of IV fluids
› Cough suppressants
› Inhalant medications to ease breathing
› Antibacterial medications
› Cold water baths (in-case of fever)


Kennel Cough is a bacterial respiratory infection which has a worldwide presence. Preventing this infection from happening may not be easy. Vaccination is the single most effective way. A stronger immunity system can ward off the infection and will also help in a speedy recovery.

Home Care

Home care should aim at improving the condition. Treatments can take a few days to weeks. Affected dogs usually recover within 8 to 12 days. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.

› Vaccination is the single most effective way to prevent the infection. Choice is generally nasal vaccines as they work faster.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your dog. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Avoid physical activity. Keep your dogs away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your dog.
› Do NOT allow your dog to roam freely. This works two ways, firstly if the pet is infected, it greatly reduces the chances of risk of exposure to other pets and humans and secondly in-case of a healthy pet, it reduces the chances of contracting the infection.
› Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress, further tests may be advised. Monitor and administer all medications as directed by your veterinarian and complete the dosage.
› Humans, especially children, pregnant women and ones handling infected pets need to exercise caution. Wear gloves when dealing with a pet, cleaning the litter boxes, disposing any and all contaminated materials, garbage disposals etc. A thorough wash of hands is advised. Practice hygiene.
› There is high probability this infection can re-occur. Seek veterinarian advise post recovery on ways to prevent this from happening.
› Untreated Bordetella can progress into life threatening Pneumonia. Post recovery, a dog can shed the infection for up-to 20 weeks, Isolating your pet is highly recommended.

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