Bacterial infection or canine parainfluenza viruses, both of which are airborne, cause kennel cough in dogs — also known as infectious tracheobronchitis.
Puppies can be vaccinated against kennel cough starting at six to eight weeks, and then every six to 12 months after that, though the vaccine doesn’t necessarily protect against the disease, but does lead to milder symptoms.
Symptoms: Kennel cough starts with lethargy, decreased appetite and fever, then puppies develop a deep, often productive, cough. If untreated, kennel cough can lead to pneumonia.
Treatment: Kennel cough is contagious. If you think your dog might have the condition, you should keep him away from other animals and contact your veterinarian.
Although most cases of kennel cough will resolve without treatment, medications may speed recovery or minimize symptoms during the course of infection. These include antibiotics that target Bordetella bacteria and cough medicines.
You may also find that keeping your dog in a well-humidified area and using a harness instead of a collar, especially for dogs that strain against a leash, will minimize the coughing.
Recovery time: Most dogs with kennel cough recover completely within three weeks, though it can take up to six weeks in older dogs or those with other medical conditions. Because serious, ongoing kennel cough infection can lead to pneumonia, be sure to follow up with your veterinarian if your dog doesn’t improve within the expected amount of time. Also, if your dog at any time has symptoms of rapid breathing, not eating, or listlessness, contact your vet right away, as these could be signs of more serious conditions.