A dog laying down on a dog bed.

What Is Kennel Cough?

Have you been to a dog park with your dog, and while talking to other owners, you hear someone mention something like kennel cough? And you wonder what exactly is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is a common name for a highly contagious respiratory disease that can be caused by different viruses and bacteria. Symptoms of kennel cough include coughing, a runny nose, loss of appetite, low fever, sneezing, and lethargy. If you notice any of these signs, call your veterinarian right away.

How Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough?

A dog sitting on a carpet and looking up at the camera.
This dog wants to know too.

As it says above, this is a highly contagious disease in dogs, and it is very easily transmitted among the dog population. All it takes is one dog to transfer it to every other dog at the dog park or at a dog show. 

The disease is spread through direct contact with an infected dog. It’s also spread when an infected dog sneezes and coughs because it releases airborne droplets in the surrounding area. Another way for your dog to get infected is if they share water or food with a dog that already has the illness. This is why sometimes a dog can return from doggy daycare and start to cough or have a runny nose.

What Causes Kennel Cough?

Different viruses and bacteria can be responsible for this issue. Here are a few of the most commonly known:

  • Canine Parainfluenza 
  • Bordetella Bronchiseptica
  • Canine Adenovirus 2
  • Canine Distemper

What Are The Clinical Signs Of Kennel Cough?

Normally, the first thing owners notice is that their dog starts to cough. Many times owners do not take this seriously because, apart from a cough here and there, their pup is happy and playful. Hence why they take their dog to play dates, for walks in the park, or they just allow their dog to socialize with other dogs. 

Other symptoms are:

  • Runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low fever
  • Sneezing
  • Lethargy 

If, by now, you recognize any of the symptoms above in your dog, please give your vet a call. 

How Do Vets Treat Kennel Cough?

Once your vet is certain your dog has this issue, they will prescribe different types of steroids, cough suppressant drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, and, in more severe cases, a round of antibiotics. 

We urge you not to give any medication over the counter without consulting your veterinarian first, though. Many times owners think that they are helping their pet, but instead, they end up giving their dog something far more serious because they gave it the wrong drug or the wrong dose.


Thankfully, this issue is usually very easily treatable, especially in adult dogs. However, for young puppies whose immune system is not fully developed, it can prove to be deadly. What you can do is consult your vet about a possible vaccine in order to better protect your pooch.

Also, if you know your dog has fection, don’t take it to places where there are other dogs or puppies. You never know how the immune system of every dog works, as sometimes even adult dogs can be immunocompromised for different reasons. Also, give your dog a few weeks to rest and recover. Imagine how you would feel if someone was making you run when you have a dry cough! 

So, what do you think about kennel cough? Is it what you expected? Let us know in the comments below!

Dr. Nade Georgieva
Dr. Nade Georgieva
Dr. Nade Georgieva, DVM, PG Dipp (Anesthesia and Analgesia) Nade is a young veterinarian from North Macedonia, with five years of experience in small animal clinical practice. She graduated from the Veterinary Faculty in Skopje, after which she got employed in her hometown. She has shown great interest in the field of pain management and anesthesia, and was the first vet in the country to continue education in the field. In 2021 she graduated with Distinction at the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, obtaining the title Postgraduate Diploma-Anesthesia and Analgesia. Nade is owned by a year old black Labrador retriever named Fred and she loves spending her time outdoors with her dog and friends. In her spare time, she also loves to learn to play the guitar and take photos of nature and animals.