Kennel Cough in Dogs (cont.)

Treating and preventing kennel cough

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 the 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.

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 or listlessness, contact your vet right away, as these could be signs of more serious conditions.

There are two forms of vaccine for kennel cough, one that is injected, and one that is delivered as a nasal mist. Although these vaccines may help, they do not guarantee protection against kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis because it can be caused by so many different kinds of bacteria and viruses. Also, it is important to realize that neither form of the kennel cough vaccination will treat active infections.

The injected form of the kennel cough vaccination is typically used for dogs that are likely to bite. Puppies typically receive two doses initially, about four weeks apart, followed by yearly booster shots.

The intranasal kennel cough vaccination is typically given to dogs once a year, but may be recommended to be given every six months for dogs at high-risk for kennel cough. This form of the vaccine tends to provide dogs protection against kennel cough sooner than the injected shot.

SOURCES: Veterinary Information Network web site, "Kennel Cough."

University of California-Davis, Koret Shelter Medicine Program web site: "Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis."

ASPCA web site: "Kennel cough."

Reviewed by Elizabeth A. Martinez, DVM on November 18, 2009.

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