Why Did My Dog Get Kennel Cough?

Dr. Lilla Yan

Have you ever wondered why your dog got kennel cough but may have already had the Kennel Cough Vaccination (Bordatella)? Royal York Animal Hospital sees Kennel Cough pretty commonly these days.  This increase is most likely because dogs are increasingly more “social”  often congregating with their owners at dog parks or doggy day care centres. We often even hear of and can pinpoint “outbreaks”  in certain Etobicoke dog parks or communities as they are happening.


The question that we hear the most is  “Why did my dog get kennel cough even though he/she had the kennel cough vaccine?”  I will try to explain this!

What is Kennel Cough (bronchotracheitis)

Kennel cough (bronchotracheitis) is a group of diseases caused by 12-15 pathogens. Most of these are viruses while a few of them are bacteria. All of these pathogens can cause bronchotracheitis, i.e. upper respiratory infection, and many of them make dogs cough. Some of these pathogens are quite contagious, and therefore dogs that go to day care, groomers, boarding kennels may contract them if another dog is carrying it.

How to Prevent Kennel Cough

The difficult part about preventing kennel cough is that there are only vaccines for two of these pathogens. No vaccines are available for the other pathogens. This is similar to flu shots in people, where only certain strains are in the protective vaccine and therefore the vaccine doesn’t prevent people from getting other strains. However, dogs can get multiple pathogens during a kennel cough episode, so dogs that are vaccinated tend to get milder symptoms as they are protected against the strains they’re vaccinated for.  This is why we recommend vaccinating.

Get Your Pet Examined for Kennel Cough

If your dog is coughing excessively, the first step is to have them examined by a veterinarian, as kennel cough is not the only cause of coughing. If Kennel Cough is diagnosed it often can be managed with just cough suppressants that make them feel better and more comfortable. Most of the causes of kennel cough are viruses and antibiotics do not kill viruses so that is why antibiotics may not be prescribed.  However, in some cases antibiotics would be indicated if the doctor felt there was another concern or individual need for that dog.

It’s common that Kennel Cough takes 2-3 weeks for dogs to recover from.  Because Kennel Cough is contagious it is recommended that they don’t meet other dogs during this period of time.

Dr. Lilla Yan

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