Tips for Controlling Kennel Cough

Controlling Kennel Cough in Puppies and adult dogs

Just like children getting sick the first time they attend school or daycare, dogs experience similar issues when they begin boarding or going to doggy daycare. Why? Because their immune system needs building, too. Today, we’re going to discuss the realities of kennel cough in dogs and what steps pet owners can take toward controlling kennel cough.

What is Kennel Cough?

According to the American Kennel Club, “Kennel Cough (also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis) is a highly contagious respiratory disease. Dogs commonly contract kennel cough at places where large amounts of canines congregate, such as boarding and daycare facilities, dog parks, training groups, and dog shows.”

Despite constant disinfection, even the best dog care facilities experience cases of kennel cough. Dogs who aren’t socialized have not built an immunity to it. Even immuno compromised dogs like puppies are more likely to contract kennel cough. Thankfully, it’s an easily treatable illness and most dogs recover with an even stronger immune system. Mild cases of kennel cough are treated with rest and possibly antibiotics.

Dogs with kennel cough exhibit the following symptoms:

  • A dry, hacking cough (sounds a lot like “honking”)
  • Coughing fits that cause dog to gag and vomit
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Runny Nose
  • Runny eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Sticky saliva
  • Low Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Appetite Loss

How Does Kennel Cough Spread?

Kennel cough spreads from one to another by way of direct contact (licking and touching), contacting contaminated surfaces (food or water bowls), and airborne droplets from coughing and sneezing. Most cases are caused by the Bordetella bacterium but may also be caused by other known viruses such as canine adenovirus type 2, canine respiratory coronavirus, mycoplasmas, Bordetella bronchiseptica, and canine parainfluenza virus.

If one of your dogs becomes ill, the vet will suggest they be isolated for two weeks after the last cough. At home, you should disinfect your dog’s bowls, toys and bedding. As a pet caretaker, you can spread the illness from dog to dog through touch. So, if you have multiple pets, you need to wash your hands if you come in contact with your sick dog before touching a non-sick pet.

What You Can do to Protect Your Dog and Treat Kennel Cough


Your vet will suggest Bordetella vaccines every six months to one year. However, this vaccine doesn’t prevent every cause of kennel cough. The only real way controlling kennel cough is possible is by completely isolating your dog. Of course, that’s not feasible or reasonable. This is just the reality of having lots of dogs together in one place. That should not discourage you from boarding your dog.

Allow Time for Immune Systems to Build

At K9U, our advice to dog owners is that if your dog has never visited a boarding facility before, it’s a good idea to have them visit daycare a few times to build their immune system prior to overnight boarding or attending a board & train program. This goes a long way in giving your dog the antibodies they need to fight of kennel cough, a common respiratory illness in dogs.

Find a Kennel that Prioritizes Cleanliness

This is crucial. At K9U, we take cleanliness seriously. Our facility is regularly cleaned and disinfected to prevent any viruses or bacteria that find their way in. Our ventilation system circulates and filters air, too.

Controlling Kennel Cough in Puppies

Important to note, puppies are always at a greater risk for getting respiratory illnesses. Their immune system just isn’t developed enough. We suggest starting them in the puppy training course to get them some safe exposure. As their immune system builds and they get all their vaccines, they will have a great time in our boarding or train and board program.

Another Illness to Watch for During the Winter Season

Giardia is common illness caused by protozoan parasites. It infects the gastro-intestinal tracts of dogs and other mammals. Dogs get giardia by coming into contact with contaminated food or feces. We suggest fecal tests every six months to make sure your dog doesn’t have giardia. These are the symptoms of giardia:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss or failure to gain weight
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydrations
  • Loss of coat luster

If you think your dog may be suffering from a respiratory illness or giardia, please schedule a visit with your veterinarian, and avoid contact with other dogs until your vet gives your dog a clean bill of health.