Kennel Cough in Young Dogs

Puppies relaxing outdoors

Both pups and adult dogs are susceptible to the widespread and dangerous illness known as kennel cough. The illness, which is brought on by germs or viruses, inflames the dog's trachea and bronchi (the tubes leading to the lungs). All dogs are prone to the syndrome, but those who have been in boarding kennels, doggie daycare, animal shelters, dog shows, with unreliable breeders, or under other stressful circumstances are more likely to develop it.

What Is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a contagious illness that inflames a dog's trachea and bronchi, which are the tubes leading to its lungs. It is also referred to as canine infectious respiratory disease complex or canine infectious tracheobronchitis.

The cilia (small hair-like projections) within an infected dog's airways are damaged by infectious bacterial or viral agents, which results in a cough. By removing irritants like dust, germs, and other microbes with wave-like movements, cilia often protect the respiratory system. Damage to them causes the defense system to malfunction, raising the likelihood that one or more diseases may spread.

Kennel cough got its name from one of the most likely sources of disease transmission: crowded boarding kennels.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Puppies

The majority of kennel cough occurrences result in a minor condition, and the symptoms typically cause more discomfort for owners than they do for the puppy. However, kennel cough can turn into a potentially fatal pneumonia if left untreated.


  • Cough
  • Nasal or eye discharge (less common)
  • Slight fever

The trachea and bronchi of the puppy get inflamed as a result of kennel cough, which results in a characteristic cough that frequently resembles a high-pitched honking. Excitation, drinking, or applying little pressure to the puppy's throat's base can all cause a cough. Coughing can occur as a result of leash pulling. Less frequent symptoms that are more likely to manifest if the illness is left untreated include fever, lack of appetite, and nasal or ocular discharge.

Another important reason to isolate new pups is because kennel cough symptoms often appear two to ten days after exposure.

Causes of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a condition that can be caused by one or a combination of different infectious agents, including:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica and Mycoplasma bacteria
  • Canine parainfluenza virus
  • Canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2).

Saliva and nasal secretions are the primary means of kennel cough transmission. When your puppy sniffs or licks an infected dog or a contaminated object in their surroundings, it can spread directly through touch. However, coughing also spreads the agents from one dog to another through the air.

Diagnosing Kennel Cough in Puppies

Your dog's recent history and clinical symptoms will help your veterinarian make the diagnosis of kennel cough. For instance, there are risk factors if your puppy was recently acquired from a shelter or kennel or spent time in a boarding facility. Although it's often not required to pinpoint the infectious agent causing a dog's symptoms, testing can be performed if it is.


Kennel cough may spiral out of control. An irritation brought on by the illness leads to a cough, which brings on still another discomfort. If a puppy's symptoms are severe or do not significantly improve within a reasonable amount of time, veterinarian attention will be required. Mild instances may resolve at home with rest and nursing care.

When bacterial infections are present, antibiotics may be needed. Additionally, bronchodilators, which widen breathing passageways, and anti-inflammatory medications may be provided. Your dog will require more intensive treatment if pneumonia develops.

Home Care

When your puppy suffers from congestion, there are home remedies to soothe its symptoms during convalescence.

  • Use a vaporizer to help unclog the nose. Put your pet in a fairly small room with a cool-mist humidifier and use it just the same as you would for a child a couple of times a day. This will not only help break up the congestion but also moisten irritated eyes and nostrils and make them feel better.
  • If you don’t have a vaporizer or humidifier, a hot shower can work. Take your dog into the bathroom with you and run the hot shower so that the air fills with steam. A 10-minute session several times a day works great—don’t go for longer than that, because too much hot, moist air can make it hard for some pets to breathe, especially short-faced bulldogs and pugs.
  • You can also use a warm washcloth or cotton balls to soak and soften eye or nose secretions and clean them off. Don’t peel dried matter off because that can hurt or damage the skin.

Puppy sickness might worsen if it refuses to eat and drink. Consult your veterinarian about providing savory and more alluring meals to pique a sick dog's appetite. The food should be microwaved for five seconds to get it to a temperature that is close to body temperature (95 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit). That will release the scent, making the meal smell more overpowering and permeable even to congested noses.

Try incorporating a little warm water or chicken broth into your dog's usual meal to increase moisture, which also helps to enhance the fragrance. Call your veterinarian if your puppy's appetite doesn't return within 24 hours.


Puppies that get careful care typically recover from kennel cough in a few weeks. Pneumonia, a more serious ailment that can be deadly and requires urgent veterinary treatment to prevent serious sickness or death, is a possibility in severe instances.

Since kennel cough is very infectious to other dogs, it's crucial to keep sick puppies (or those who are coughing often) separate from other dogs and keep an eye out for coughing in those who have been exposed. Isolation can be difficult in houses with several dogs since infected puppies may continue to spread the disease to other dogs for several weeks.


There are kennel cough immunizations that can provide protection. To promote what is referred to as "local immunity," some vaccines are administered via injection, while others are administered as drops in the nose or mouth. The ideal decision for your dog might be suggested by your vet. If your dog is at a high risk for kennel cough, yearly immunizations may be beneficial; otherwise, this shot may only be given when your puppy boarded at a kennel or started puppy courses.

Is Kennel Cough Contagious to Other Animals?

Kennel cough is highly contagious to other canines, so an infected puppy should be isolated from other dogs of all ages. This disease is not contagious to humans or other pet species.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


"Tracheobronchitis in Small Animals. Merck Veterinary Manual.", "Reagan, Krystle L, and Jane E Sykes. Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Small animal practice vol. 50,2 (2020): 405-418. doi:10.1016/j.cvsm.2019.10.009" ;