Similar to the common cold in humans, kennel cough can be caused by several different viruses (such as canine distemper, canine parainfluenza virus, or canine coronavirus) or, more commonly, by bacteria called Bordatella bronchiseptica. The condition is airborne and can be spread through sneezing and coughing, especially in close quarters such as kennels — which is how it got its name.
If your dog has a harsh cough, he may have kennel cough. Other signs include wheezing, sneezing, snorting, nasal discharge, retching, and gagging. Young puppies and older dogs with compromised immune systems may experience more severe signs.
Generally, like the common cold in humans, kennel cough resolves itself without any treatment. If the cause of kennel cough is bacterial, your veterinarian may dispense antibiotics. It usually takes about 3 weeks for the condition to clear, or up to 6 weeks for older dogs or those with other health conditions. Kennel cough is highly contagious between dogs, so it is important to keep infected dogs away from healthy dogs.
Dogs catch kennel cough from other dogs, so they face a higher risk of contracting kennel cough if they frequent boarding facilities, dog daycare, and dog parks. Vaccines are typically only given to dogs who have a high risk of contracting the disease. The vaccine may be given in the form of an injection, by mouth, or a nasal mist. While these vaccinations help, they cannot guarantee protection against kennel cough since it is caused by various kinds of bacteria and viruses.