Kennel cough

Kennel cough is an infection in dogs that affects the throat, airway and lungs. It’s caused by bacteria or viruses and can spread quickly between dogs. Despite the name, kennel cough is most commonly caught in parks and other popular dog walking areas, rather than in boarding kennels.

In most healthy adult dogs, kennel cough will clear up by itself without treatment. The infection is more dangerous for vulnerable dogs, such as:

  • elderly dogs
  • puppies
  • dogs with ongoing health issues like bronchitis, asthma or pneumonia.


Dogs develop a cough but are usually otherwise okay. The cough is very distinctive – it sounds like the dog has something stuck in their throat.

Some dogs might get other symptoms like:

  • a runny nose
  • sneezing
  • eye discharge. 


Most healthy adult dogs will recover from kennel cough without treatment. If treatment is needed, your vet will prescribe a course of antibiotics for your dog.


You can vaccinate your dog against bordatella bronchiseptica – the most common bacteria that causes kennel cough. The vaccine doesn’t guarantee full protection, as there are many other viruses and bacteria that can cause the condition. However, in many cases it can make the symptoms of the illness less severe.

Your dog’s routine vaccinations also cover some of the other bacteria that cause kennel cough such as canine distemper and canine influenza.


When should you think about vaccinating your dog against kennel cough?

The Kennel Cough vaccine isn’t considered a ‘core vaccine’. This means it isn’t included in the vaccines your dog gets as a puppy or in their regular booster shots.

It isn’t recommended to get your dog vaccinated against kennel cough each year unless they’re at a high risk of catching it. The vaccination might be recommended by your vet if:

  • Your dog is regularly walked in areas where lots of other dogs are walked.
  • Your dog will be staying in a boarding kennel. Most boarding kennels require dogs staying with them to be vaccinated against Kennel Cough, as the infection can spread very quickly in this environment.

Your vet can discuss with you whether a Kennel Cough vaccination is a good idea for your dog.