What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis, is a respiratory infection caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine parainfluenza virus. Kennel cough most commonly occurs when pets are exposed to crowded, and/or poorly ventilated conditions found in many kennels and shelters. Dogs that spend a lot of time at dog parks, doggy day care, boarding facilities, cold temperatures, dust, cigarette smoke, or travel-induced stress are also factors that increase your pet’s risk to kennel cough.

Dog looking sick with kennel cough

My Story and Why I Don’t Get The Bordetella Vaccination For My Dogs

Our adopted dog JJ, came to us healthy, but a few days after we brought him home, he started coughing. I never heard a dog cough like that before, so I quickly Googled coughing in dogs and of course, the first thing that shows up is kennel cough.

It turns out JJ had kennel cough, induced by the stress of moving from his foster home to our home. I called the foster and found out that she had puppies with kennel cough in her home at the same time, and even though they never interacted, the puppies transmitted the virus to JJ.

He didn’t show any signs at first because he had a generally healthy immune system, but add the stress of being adopted and boom, his immune system became compromised. The rescue group immediately gave us antibiotics for him, and he was better in just a couple of days.

I continued to vaccinate JJ each year as our vet recommended. No one ever informed me of the issues of over-vaccinating our dogs, but that’s an entirely another story. You can read more about I prevent my dogs from getting kennel cough in my Natural Home Remedies for Kennel Cough article.

The Bordetella or kennel cough vaccine is not required for most dogs, but if you ever need to board your dog, take him to doggy daycare or a groomer, they may ask for proof that your dog has had the Bordetella or Kennel Cough Vaccination. Make sure you are fully educated about the real facts about kennel cough and talk to your vet to make sure it is truly necessary for your dog.

Kennel Cough FAQ

1. What does kennel cough sound like?

Kennel cough sounds like typical a coughing or gagging like your dog has a cold or is trying to vomit.

2. How do you know if your dog has kennel cough?

If your dog is coughing and has any of these additional symptoms, then he most likely has kennel cough:

a. Continuous, strong cough, gagging or hacking
b. Runny nose and sneezing
c. Loss of appetite
d. Low fever
e. Lethargy in severe cases

3. How long does kennel cough last?

Kennel cough symptoms can develop anywhere from 3-10 days AFTER exposure. Most otherwise healthy dogs will get better from kennel cough within 3-4 weeks. If your dog is older or a young puppy it could take up to 6 weeks or more.

If your vet prescribes antibiotics, then you will see your dog feeling better within days. This was the case with JJ. Although they are still contagious to other dogs for up to 2 weeks! So it’s important, even if your dog feels better, to keep him away from other dogs. Sorry, that means no dog park, play dates, or boarding.

Kennel Cough FAQ in stray dogs

4. Is kennel cough contagious to other pets?

Yes, kennel cough is very contagious, and spreads like any virus, in the air, and through bodily liquids. When an infected dog coughs, shares a water bowl, shares toys, they share the virus. This is why many boarding facilities and doggy daycares will require the Bordetella Vaccination.

5. Is kennel cough contagious to humans?

Yes, you can contract kennel cough from your dog. but it is extremely rare. People with a weakened immune system or have a respiratory disease already can get kennel cough from their dog. If you are concerned, then contact your doctor asap!

6. Is it okay to treat kennel cough with over the counter human Robitussin?

I’ve read that a home remedy for kennel cough treatment is Robitussin. I personally have not used it, so I would highly recommend you contact your vet to find out if it is okay to administer Robitussin to your dog and what the correct dosage would be for him. VetInfo.com has a great article about administrating Robitussin to dogs, but I still recommend calling your vet since it does say there can be adverse side effects.

Should I get the kennel cough /bordetella vaccine for my dog?

Kennel cough treatment and prevention is important if your dog will be around any other dogs. If you take your dog to doggie daycare, the dog park, or even if you foster dogs, you may want to consider the vaccine.

I had the Bordetella Vaccination given to our dogs up until 2 years ago. I assumed that because we bring in foster dogs that I needed to protect them by vaccinating them. Little did I know that I could protect them naturally, with a healthy diet and natural ingredients that I was actually already feeding them. You can read more about Natural Home Remedies for Kennel Cough Here.

Please share your story by commenting below. Your story could help another dog lover, and I promise to reply back to answer any questions you may have.

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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