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Common Illness in Puppies: Kennel Cough

05/14/2018 by Colleen Williams
May 14th, 2018 by Colleen Williams

Puppies are susceptible to many illnesses because of their underdeveloped immune systems. The symptoms of some sicknesses may be more severe in puppies because of their inability to fight them off. Kennel cough is one of those illnesses and can progress to other, more serious illnesses and even death in puppies.


Kennel cough, or infectious canine tracheobronchitis, is a condition caused by infection of one or more viruses. It’s highly contagious, and most dogs that contract the illness have recently been in crowded quarters like a birthing den or a kennel. Puppies are especially prone to acquiring kennel cough due to their weakened immune systems.


As the name implies, the main indicator of infection is a dry, hacking or “honking” cough. In addition, nasal discharge and retching are also symptoms. More severely infected dogs can present with fever, lack of appetite, lethargy, and pneumonia.


To diagnose kennel cough, your vet will require a detailed history of your pet’s health – any recent travels and when symptoms began – and urine and blood tests. In mild cases, your dog can fight kennel cough on its own, like humans with the common cold. For puppies, however, an anti-inflammatory drug will be given to reduce pain from coughing. More severe cases require antibiotics to fight off the infection. While your dog has kennel cough, it’s best to remove any constrictions from around the throat – collars, bandanas, etc. To walk your dog, use a body harness and make sure the temperature is above 40 degrees to avoid hypothermia.


Until a dog is around a year old, it’s best not to board them in a kennel. If you have to go on vacation, place the puppy with a friend or family member. However, it’s highly recommended that you do not leave your puppy within the first year – this is a formative time when pet parents bond with their pets; leaving can stress the bond, or even break it. There is a vaccine for the kennel cough virus – talk to your veterinarian.

Kennel cough is a fairly common condition among puppies, but can progress to a life-threatening illness if left untreated. Avoid boarding your puppy until they’re at least a year old. If your puppy develops a cough, seek veterinary treatment immediately, and ask your vet about the kennel cough vaccine.

Enrolling in pet insurance early means your pup will be covered for accidents and illnesses after the waiting period. Check out our dog and puppy insurance and learn how you can save up to 90% on vet bills over the course of your canine’s life. You can start by getting a free quote.