Kennel Cough

If your dog has a hacking cough or constantly making noises that sound like it may be choking, it may have a bout of kennel cough.

An uncomplicated kennel cough lasts for about a week or two.  The dog has frequent fits of coughing but is otherwise active and normal. Uncomplicated cases do not involve fever or listlessness, merely a lot of coughing.

Below is some useful information on kennel cough from Somerset West Vet at Teva Veterinary Clinic, Dr Karin Wilson.

 What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is an infectious disease that affects the upper respiratory tract of dogs.  It leads to a dry, hacking cough which sounds as if something is stuck in the dog’s throat. 

Similar to the way that the common cold in humans doesn’t have a single viral or bacterial cause, kennel cough is caused by a group of mostly viruses and often a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica.

Can my dog’s cough be due to something else?

There are several other reasons why your dog could cough. Common reasons for a similar dry cough are:

  • Allergic tracheitis:  The Helderberg area is renowned for being a hotspot for allergies.
  • Tracheal collapse:  This is most often seen in small breeds, for example, Yorkshire terriers.

The full list for causes of coughing is extensive and includes heart disease and a variety of lung lesions.

But if your dog has had contact with other dogs and is otherwise well, kennel cough is a likely cause.

How is kennel cough treated?

Most infections will clear without any treatment. However, a vet can make your dog feel better by giving certain symptomatic treatments depending on the severity of the symptoms. Antibiotics would usually not be needed.

Your dog needs to rest. Running around will only make the cough worse.

When your dog seems listless or does not want to eat as usual, it is important to take it to a vet for a check-up as it could mean that the disease has progressed to pneumonia. In which case, your dog would need additional care.

Why do we vaccinate against kennel cough?

Although it is rarely life-threatening, it is extremely contagious and can spread like wildfire in a situation where unvaccinated dogs are grouped together. This can lead to outbreaks in places such as kennels, hence the name ‘kennel’ cough. This is the reason why most kennels require proof of an up to date kennel cough vaccination.

It is important to note that kennels are NOT the only places where this disease can be transmitted.  Any dog that socialises with other dogs with unknown vaccination statuses is at risk (for example, in public parks). 

How often should my dog be vaccinated against kennel cough?

Injectable Pneumodog Vaccine:  The primary vaccination – two injections two to three weeks apart, thereafter, once yearly. The vaccination should be given at least a week before introducing your dog to a group of other dogs.

Intranasal KC Vaccine:  The primary vaccination – a once-off vaccination which is effective within three days. Annual revaccination is also required as with the injectable vaccine. This injection is slightly more expensive but advisable should you need a last-minute vaccination for kennel purposes.

Further useful links:

Click here for more information regarding vaccination and kennels.

It can be distressing to have a coughing dog at home, especially if you are unsure about the cause.  Never hesitate to contact a vet should you have any concerns or questions.

Authored by Dr Karin Wilson (not a SAFREA member)

Proofread and Copyedited by Delilah Sao Joao (SAFREA member)

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2 Responses

  1. Apart from learning more on what I can do to protect my dog Pepper (a somewhat mixed fella with predominant Greyhound strains), I looked for errors. I found none. Great editor/proofreader job, Delilah.

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