Kennel Cough Symptoms in Puppies

Kennel cough symptoms can make your puppy very irritable and uncomfortable. Kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis is a term applied to various highly contagious bacterial or viral upper respiratory infections in dogs. It’s so called because it’s prevalent among dogs that live in kennels.

Causes of Kennel Cough in Puppies

Kennel cough is caused by both bacterial and viral agents that spread through the air when an infected dog coughs or sneezes. The viral infections that are responsible for kennel cough are known as canine distemper, canine adenovirus, reovirus, canine parainfluenza virus or canine respiratory coronavirus. The bacterial infection that’s known to cause kennel cough in dogs is known as bordetella bronchiseptica.

Symptoms of Canine Kennel Cough:

  • Hacking cough
  • Retching
  • Sinus
  • Fever
  • Lethargy 
  • Death

Hacking Cough

A puppy with kennel cough will have a hacking cough that is continual. The cough can worsen if the dog is exerted or exercised. The cough is dry in nature with little or no sputum and has a honking sound. When a pet owner hears the cough, it sounds as though the puppy is going to vomit. The cough resonates in the puppy’s body frame and is a source of extreme discomfort as the puppy might suffer from frequent coughing bouts that can be tiring and depressing.


The intense coughing can cause the puppy to gag. He might expel small amounts of vomit or phlegm at the end of a coughing bout. Some puppies may also discharge white colored foam. This is accompanied by a gagging sound from its throat. If you check your pet’s bedding area, you will often find phlegm or a yellowish discharge there.


Your pet might suffer from congestion and show signs of nasal discharge. If the discharge is clear, thin and watery, the puppy is suffering from a primary infection. However, if the discharge is thick and yellow, it indicates that he is suffering from a secondary infection and should be treated at the earliest.


Kennel cough accompanied by a fever is due to a bacterial infection and unless treated immediately can lead to complications such as pneumonia


Your puppy might show signs of lethargy and loss of appetite in severe cases of kennel cough.


In very severe cases of kennel cough, the puppy might die. Severe cases of kennel cough are usually common in puppies with impaired immune systems or in puppies that aren’t vaccinated.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Kennel Cough in Puppies

A physical examination can help the vet during diagnosis to determine if the kennel cough is due to a bacterial infection or not. Medications to thin the mucous secretions provide relief. Cough suppressants are also prescribed and if the kennel cough is due to a bacterial infection, antibiotics such as clavamox, trimethoprim sulfonamide and doxycycline are prescribed. Your puppy should be kept warm and encouraged to drink plenty of water. Soft food and a stress free environment are best.

Early detection and treatment of kennel cough can prevent the development of any complications or secondary infections.