Kennel Cough Vaccination For Dogs

Kennel cough is a common, contagious condition seen in dogs, which is very rarely life threatening. Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) causes inflammation of the windpipe (trachea) and deep airways (bronchi). It does not have a specific cause and a variety of viruses and bacteria can cause it. The most common pathogens are parainfluenza virus and Bordatella bronchiseptica bacteria. 

How are dogs infected?

Dogs are infected when the virus or bacteria are inhaled into the nose and mouth. They infect the lining of the respiratory tract causing inflammation and irritation. The virus/bacteria then replicate and spread to other dogs in nasal and oral secretions. Outbreaks are particularly common where there are several dogs in a small airspace, such as boarding kennels or training classes, and where there is direct contact between dogs, such as on walks and sharing toys and water bowls. 

What are the symptoms of Kennel Cough?

Typically, symptoms will appear 5-10 days after infection, but dogs can spread the infection before they show any symptoms.  

  • The classic symptom of kennel cough is a dry hacking cough, often described as a “goose-honk” cough. Many dogs will cough in small fits until they bring up white frothy phlegm 
  • Some animals remain normal in demeanour apart from the cough, while other dogs may be generally unwell with a high temperature and lethargy 
  • The lymph nodes (glands) in the neck may swell as the immune system fights the infection

As with any illness, if your pets’ symptoms do not completely fit the description, or the course of disease seems longer than expected, please contact your vet for advice. 

What is the treatment?

Often no specific treatment is needed, and signs will improve within 1-2 weeks.  

  • Try to keep your dog quiet as the cough worsens with excitement 
  • Avoid walks to prevent spread to other dogs 
  • If the cough is particularly bad your vet may prescribe a course of anti-inflammatories. Most cases of kennel cough are caused by viruses, so antibiotics are not helpful 
  • If your dog is systemically unwell e.g., lethargic and unwilling to eat or drink, they should be checked over by your vet. Often very young or old animals are more severely affected and should be monitored closely.  

How can Kennel Cough be prevented?

In the UK, there is a vaccine available to protect against kennel cough. This is a small amount of liquid given intra-nasally and should be given yearly. Most dogs will tolerate it well although some take a particular dislike.  

The vaccine protects against the most common strains of parainfluenza and Bordetella. Unfortunately, other viruses can also cause symptoms, so the vaccine does not guarantee 100% protection. Typically, vaccinated dogs who contact an unusual viral strain are less severely affected than unvaccinated dogs. 

Although kennel cough can be spread by direct contact between animals, it is not a serious illness and worry about infection should not limit encouraging socialisation of dogs. 

Are there any side-effects?

The kennel cough vaccine is a live vaccine, which means that pets may experience a very mild form of the disease after vaccination. Some dogs will develop a mild cough or runny nose for a few days after vaccination. This does not need treatment. 

It is recommended that kennel cough vaccine is not given to pets who live with an immunocompromised person (such as those receiving chemotherapy), as there is a very small chance they could catch a Bordatella infection. If in doubt, please speak to your vet. Kennel cough vaccine poses no risk to healthy humans. 

The Kennel Cough vaccination is included in The Healthy Pet Club membership. Please contact your practice to discuss and book your dog's kennel cough vaccination.


Please note that the content made available on this webpage is for general information purposes only. Whilst we try to ensure that at the time of writing all material is up to date and reflects industry standards, we make no representation, warranties or guarantees that the information made available is up to date, accurate or complete. Any reliance placed by yourselves is done so at your own risk.

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