Kennel cough is the name given to any one of a number of respiratory tract infections that can develop in dogs, which can be caused by different types of infections including both those that are bacterial and those that are viral.
This means that it is not one particular type of infection and can have several different causes, but one thing that all types of kennel cough share is that they’re highly contagious, and will spread quickly between populations of dogs that come into close contact or that are kept together.
In fact, this is how kennel cough got its name in the first place; because many if not most dogs kennelled together, such as at a boarding facility, dog show, dog pound or other similar setting would quickly develop the condition if just one dog with an infection was brought in.
Kennel cough is far less common in dogs today than it used to be historically, and this is because there is a vaccine available for the most common type of infectious agent that causes kennel cough in dogs – Bordetella. Ensuring that your dog is vaccinated will greatly reduce (but not fully prevent) the chances of them getting kennel cough, or of passing it on to other dogs.
But how would you know if your dog had kennel cough? Kennel cough is not the only thing that can make a dog cough or cause an ongoing cough in your dog, and some of the things that make dogs cough aren’t even related to respiratory infections at all.
However, learning the symptoms of kennel cough in dogs and how it presents, as well as knowing and weighing up the various risk factors, can help you to tell if your dog’s cough is kennel cough or not.
You do always need to get your vet to verify this, diagnose the root cause, and determine the appropriate course of treatment; but particularly if you have other dogs too or your dog has lots of friends and may pass a contagious cough on to others (or be at higher risk of catching one) being able to identify kennel cough is a handy skill for any dog owner.
Read on to learn more about how to tell if your dog has kennel cough.
First of all, if your dog hasn’t been vaccinated against kennel cough, this greatly increases the chances of them catching it. It is important to note, however, that even a vaccinated dog can catch kennel cough, although they’re highly unlikely to catch the most common form of kennel cough, caused by the Bordetella bacteria.
Kennel cough vaccination isn’t something you take care of once then forget; dogs need regular booster shots, usually on an annual basis. If your dog was vaccinated once but hasn’t been since ,or is not up to date with their booster shots, the chances of that cough being kennel cough are higher.
Kennel cough is very contagious and a dog doesn’t even need to have direct physical contact with an infected dog to catch it, as it is airborne.
You might not realise that any given dog your dog comes into contact with has kennel cough, as they could still be contagious in the incubation and recovery period without coughing, and even during the coughing stage, might not happen to cough when you’re around!
If you do know that your dog has been around a dog with kennel cough or any unexplained cough, this does mean it is more likely they’ll have caught it.
Kennel cough is a hard type of cough to miss, because it produces a very forced, pained-sounding cough that might seem to wrack your dog’s whole body. Whether your dog has occasional coughing bouts or they’re protracted and almost continual, this can be very tiring for them.
Kennel cough also makes a very loud hacking sound, like you might expect if your dog had something lodged in their throat. It is in general a very attention-grabbing and audible type of cough.
A kennel cough coughing fit can be acute and as mentioned, is apt to make people turn and look if it happens out in public as it is likely to be loud and quite distinctive. This can of course be alarming, particularly if your dog’s whole body moves with the cough and they are making a hacking sound as if they’re choking or have something stuck in their throat.
Kennel cough can be either very dry and raspy, or it can be productive, and so this isn’t overly helpful in terms of one trait confirming or ruling out kennel cough. However, it is worth knowing this so that you don’t inadvertently discount a productive cough, which many people do, as kennel cough is commonly associated with a dry, hacking sound.