The name Kennel Cough is a bit misleading; it should really be referred to as “Socialising Dog Cough”. The official term is Infectious Tracheobronchitis, which means inflammation of the windpipe (trachea) and large airways (bronchi), caused by infectious agents.

There are several different bugs that can cause the disease, including both bacteria and viruses. The severity and duration of the cough depends on which bug is responsible for your dog’s cough. The bugs are transmitted on the breath/saliva of the dog. A cough caused by one of the milder viruses, for example, may last a few days and cause a coughing fit only if the dog’s collar is pulled. If, however, the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica is the culprit, the cough may go on for 6+ weeks, keep everyone in the house awake, and need specific antibiotics to shift it.

What are the symptoms of Kennel Cough? The most common report is the suspicion that the dog has something stuck in its throat – it coughs and coughs, getting louder and louder until it makes a retching sound, swallows, and goes quiet. Careful questioning establishes that the dog can eat, drink, and breathe despite the awful noises being made: nothing is stuck.

A history of having been around other dogs in the days before it started also lends weight to the diagnosis. The ‘social’ event could have been kennels, the dog sitter, being on a group dog walk, or just being anywhere ‘dog-heavy’.

The good things about the disease are that is it not fatal, cannot be transmitted long distance via the environment, and it will eventually go away.

The bad news is that the contagion can continue for several weeks after the cough has gone, making your dog a social pariah. The weak or elderly have the potential to suffer permanent lung damage if B. bronchiseptica has been involved – it is the cousin of B. pertussis, the causative agent of whooping cough.

Treatment will depend on the severity of the cough and how long it has been going on for before being seen by the vet. A mild cough may only need time and a cough syrup to help soothe your dog’s throat and settle the cough. The more severe versions might also need antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and medication to permit sleep.

Vaccines are available. How relevant they are will depend hugely on your dog’s lifestyle... they protect (depending on the brand) against the worst bacteria (Bordetella) and virus (Parainfluenza). They do not provide cover against the mild viruses – in the same way a flu vaccine does not stop you catching a cold. Historically, the vaccine involved a spray up the nose – a turn off for many dogs and owners. Happily, injectable versions are also now available.

If you suspect your dog may have Kennel Cough, a thorough check-up at the vet is strongly recommended. Several other conditions, including collapsing trachea and an enlarged heart can mimic the cough of “Socialising Dog Cough”.

For further advice or information, please contact 124 Vet by calling 282 338 407, or email