That thing called Kennel Cough

By  Anthony Prado Basa, DVM

Yes, dogs do develop cough and in some cases, it  can be life-threatening. In other cases, kennel cough can cause  a lot of discomfort in dogs.


Kennel Cough (or Canine Cough) is an upper respiratory infection caused by both a bacteria and a virus.

It is also known as Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC) and Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis as it affects the dog’s lungs, windpipe and voice box.

Kennel Cough is highly contagious and extremely uncomfortable to dogs. It becomes life-threatening in young puppies, geriatric dogs, and immune system-compromised dogs.

Yssa or Ragu, a dog rescued from the pound by Save Animals of Love and Light (Save ALL), developed  kennel cough at age 9. Considered a senior dog now, she is borderline diabetic, thus her immune system can be compromised anytime. These two factors-- age and  the state of the immune system--  made her  susceptible to kennel cough. She completely recovered from the illness  after  Doc Anthony  gave her  antibiotics and supplements to boost her immune system. 

Kennel Cough is caused by several infectious agents, many of which plague the dog simultaneously.

The most common is a bacteria called Bordetella Bronchiseptica (this is why you may also hear Kennel Cough being referred to as Bordetella). If the infection is caused solely by this bacterium, symptoms normally last for only 10 days.

However, the dog continues to shed the disease for 6-14 weeks.

In the majority of cases, Kennel Cough is caused by a combination of both the Bordetalla bacterium and highly infectious viruses such as Canine Distemper or Canine Influenza.

The viruses not only weaken the dog’s immune system to make them more susceptible to Bordetella, but they also attack the cells in the respiratory tract. This puts the dog’s trachea (windpipe) and larynx (voicebox) in harm’s way.

It’s important to note that some dogs are carriers of this disease but do not show any symptom.

Lucas  developed  kennel cough  only recently. He  is  considered a senior dog  as he is 10 years old already.  He was relieved of  the discomfort caused by dry cough and phlegm build-up when he was given an antibiotic and  supplements.
But whenever infected dogs with no symptoms  come in contact with other dogs, they are exposing these dogs to Canine Cough, putting them at high risk for infection.


Kennel Cough is an airborne disease, and is thus primarily spread through the air.

Here are the ways the disease is transmitted:

 1. When an infected dog coughs, sneezes, or barks.

The bacteria and viruses can remain viable (alive and able to infect) in the air for up to two (2 )weeks on tiny dust particles, traveling throughout the environment until inhaled by another host.

2. Contact with contaminated objects.

 If an infected dog drinks from a watering dish, picks up a toy or stick, or hikes his leg on a post, and another dog comes in contact with these objects, the new dog will most likely contract Kennel Cough.

Bacterium like Bordetella can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours, ready and waiting to be transmitted to another unsuspecting host to continue the cycle of infection.

3. Direct contact with infected dogs.

Be careful who your dog associates with and where he hangs out! Touching noses, sniffing butts, or just breathing the same air as an infected dog can cause your best friend to develop Kennel Cough.

4. Dog daycare and dog boarding facilities, kennels, veterinary hospitals, dog grooming and other pet businesses where numerous dogs are coming and going or kept in close quarters, must take extra precautions to protect their facilities from the transmission of Kennel Cough.

Doc Antony  with  sweet senior Jec Jec, resident dog at Sha Sha clinic along West Avenue, Quezon City.
If a dog is suspected to have this illness, he must be isolated immediately.


Although Kennel Cough in dogs is not fatal, it does cause symptoms that make an infected dog quite miserable.

The most common symptoms of Kennel Cough include:

1. A dry, hacking cough. This is a classic symptom. The cough is generally dry (although sometimes mucous can be expelled) and may be described as a “honking” noise. The cough is constant, persistent, and can be unsettling. Some dogs may experience a coughing fit every few minutes.

2. Fever. If the dog develops a fever, he probably has contracted a more severe form of the disease.

3. Lethargy. Not all dogs with this illness appear lethargic. If the dog is lethargic, he will have decreased energy, poor appetite, lack of interest in activities he is usually excited about, minimal motivation, among others.

4. Discharge. Nasal discharge and watery, runny eyes are a common symptom of Kennel Cough. In most cases, the discharge will be clear but sometimes it can be slightly cloudy or discolored, the latter is usually a sign of secondary infection.


 Most dogs recover from Kennel Cough within  three to four (3-4) weeks.

If a dog has a compromised immune system, is a young puppy or a senior dog, it may take up to six (6) weeks for a complete recovery.

However, the dog may still be a carrier of the disease for several weeks after he has recovered.


Canine Cough in dogs can be diagnosed by a veterinarian using cultures and blood tests to isolate the bacteria.

There are several medical and homeopathic options for the treatment of Kennel Cough. These include:

• Medication

• Vitamins

• Honey

• Herbs

Your veterinarian can prescribe a round of antibiotics to help your dog recover faster.


Prevention is  always the best option.

Here’s how it be done:

1.   Screen the pets your dog associates with.

2.   Make sure your dog’s buddies are healthy and up-to-date on their vaccines.

3.   Make sure your dog is seen by a veterinarian regularly.

About the Author: Anthony Prado Basa, 34, graduated from Virgen Milgarosa University Foundation in San Carlos City, Pangasinan in 2008.  He is married to Married to Mariliza Basa  and  has been a practicing vet in Metro Manila for several years now.

Topics: That thing called Kennel Cough
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