A simple cough. You’d know what to do if you had a cough – cough syrup. You’d know what to do if your partner had a cough – tell them to harden up. But your dog? Your beloved pooch! What do you do then?

Let’s put your mind to ease to start with. If you have a dog that doesn’t have an underlying heart condition, and are otherwise happy and healthy, you’re probably dealing with canine cough (aka Kennel Cough) – a contagious, but thankfully self-resolving upper respiratory infection.


What is Canine Cough?

Canine cough is a common infectious disease of dogs contracted from other infected dogs. It goes by many names – canine cough, kennel cough, infectious tracheobronchitis, canine infectious respiratory disease and even ahhh! help my pooch has a tickly throat!

Most causes of the canine cough infection are caused by one or more viruses, much like the “common cold” in humans. There can also be secondary bacterial infection.

  The clinical signs (symptoms) are

  • coughing (usually a loud hacking or honking cough, often occurring in bouts which may result in retching),
  • coughing white foam,
  • sneezing,
  • a watery nasal and/ or ocular discharge and
  • mild lethargy.


But wait – isn’t my dog fully vaccinated against Canine Cough?

Yes! If you have kept up to date with your vaccinations recommended by your vet, your dog is vaccinated every year against Canine Cough. However the vaccination is against one of the most common viruses and the most common bacteria that causes Canine Cough. It does not protect against all possible viral and bacterial causes. Unfortunately it seems that the latest outbreak of Canine Cough may be related to one of these other strains of virus.

 Vaccination is still worthwhile as it still decreases the risk of infection and also the severity of disease if your pet does become infected!

How is it diagnosed?

Most of the time Canine Cough can be diagnosed based on the signs your dog is displaying, the physical exam and the history you provide your vet. If your pet is very unwell your vet may recommend radiographs of the chest to rule out pneumonia.


How is it treated?

Canine Cough is infections are usually self-resolving within a week to 10 days; indeed many upper respiratory infections are subclinical (may go unnoticed). Cough suppressants may be prescribed if the cough is really bothering you or your pet.

Rarely, if your pet is systemically unwell (fever, not eating or drinking, has pneumonia) then antibiotics or sometimes even hospitalisation may be required.

When to seek treatment

Veterinary advice should be sought where signs like coughing persist longer than a week with no sign of improvement. Rarely Canine Cough can result in a life-threatening pneumonia and which needs to be recognized and treated early.

Clinical signs which should prompt earlier veterinary intervention would include loss of appetite, pyrexia (fever), a mucoid nasal discharge or severe lethargy.


How to prevent your dog getting Canine Cough

 Vaccination is available to help reduce the chances of becoming infected. Whilst not 100% effective at preventing disease, vaccines can reduce the severity and duration of the infection.

 Canine Cough is highly contagious. Key to prevention and control of Canine Cough is strict hygiene and sanitation such as preventing an infected dog from mixing with others until free from signs and thorough disinfection of food and water bowels, leads, etc.

 So please keep your coughing pets at home to prevent spreading it on to other dogs. Canine Cough cannot spread to cats and humans.


As always, if you have any concerns or questions, our teams at Riverport Veterinary Hospital and Victor Central Vets are more than happy to help!


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