Dog: Kennel Cough

General information

Other common/scientific names: infectious tracheobronchitis, Bordetella

Kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis is an infection of the upper respiratory system which includes the trachea, pharynx, larynx and bronchi. It can be caused by several different viral and bacterial agents.


Kennel cough is usually thought to be caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica. However, other viruses are thought to play a role in kennel cough. These include canine parainfluenza, canine adenovirus type 2, canine distemper virus and canine herpesvirus.


Kennel cough is spread through respiratory secretions from infected, coughing dogs. The incubation period is 2 to 14 days depending on the causative agent. Dogs get infected when they are kept in a crowded environment with poor air circulation such as a boarding kennel, animal shelter, dog show or puppy school.

Cardinal symptom

Hacking cough


Kennel cough is characterized by a loud, hacking, honk-like cough. Gagging and coughing up white phlegm can accompany the cough. Usually, these dogs have a normal attitude and appetite. However, severe cases of kennel cough can lead to fever, lack of appetite and pneumonia.


Diagnosis of kennel cough is based on history and clinical signs.


Most cases of kennel cough resolve without treatment in one to two weeks. Dogs which do not improve within one week or dogs in which clinical signs worsen may need treatment with antibiotics and cough suppressants.


Prognosis is good for a complete recovery. Young puppies, older dogs or dogs with an underlying immune system disease are more prone to the complication of pneumonia.


There are two types of vaccines for the Bordetella bacteria, injectable and intranasal (inhaled through the nose). The injectable vaccine takes longer to take effect than the intranasal. The injectable vaccine requires a booster after the initial vaccine at 3-4 weeks before it is effective and should not be used in dogs younger than 4 months of age. The intranasal vaccine can be given to pups as young as 4 weeks and will provide immunity after one dose. These vaccines may not completely prevent kennel cough caused by Bordetella but they can lessen the symptoms if your dog is exposed. Annual and bi-annual boosters are recommended. An additional booster is recommended before exposure to other at risk dogs. Most boarding kennels and puppy classes require vaccination prior to the event.

While the kennel cough vaccine is not necessary for house dogs or dogs which have little contact with other dogs, vaccination for the other contributing causes of kennel cough (canine parainfluenza, canine adenovirus and canine distemper) is recommended and included in a combination vaccine with canine parvovirus, Leptospirosis and coronavirus.

Click here for more information on canine vaccinations.


Because kennel cough is contagious, dogs with signs should be kept isolated and not allowed to mingle with other dogs.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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