We've all kind of heard of kennel cough in dogs, but in some ways, it's still a black box. In most cases kennel cough clears up on its own, but it's also known to create bigger problems for puppies or immunocomprimised dogs (which is why you probably hear about it so often right after adopting a puppy.) Here's your quick cheat sheet on kennel cough - what you need to know and what you should expect in your dog.

So what is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is basically a respiratory disease found in dogs that's fairly contagious and frequently spreads in places where dogs seem to congregate. So if you take your dog to a dog run frequently or he spends time at daycare or in training sessions, it's possible that he's being exposed to kennel cough. When your dog is fully grown, kennel cough is highly treatable, but it's something to watch out for in puppies under six months of age because their immune systems aren't fully developed.

How is kennel cough spread?

There are three main ways that kennel cough is transmitted: It's spread through the air when an infected dog coughs, sneezes, barks, etc. and releases contaminants into the air. It is also spread via contact from contaminated objects - think things like drinking from the same bowl, playing with the same toys, etc. Then the last way it's spread is through direct contact with an infected dog whether that be in the dog park or at daycare.

How can I tell if my dog has kennel cough?

Common symptoms to watch out for include:

  • a strong cough (mostly dry and hacking)
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • low fever

If you notice your dog has any 2 of these symptoms, we'd suggest talking to your vet right away. While kennel cough is highly treatable in adult dogs and oftentimes goes away on its own, it's always best to rule out something more serious.

How long does kennel cough last?

In dogs with healthy immune systems, kennel cough should clear up on its own in about 3-4 weeks. If your dog is still a puppy, however, or is immunocompromised, it could take 6 weeks or longer, which is why it's especially important to notice the warning signs in puppies and why you hear about it so often right after you adopt a puppy.

How is kennel cough treated?

While kennel cough can clear up on its own, it's probably best to talk to your vet who can really assess whether or not your dog has kennel cough. Your vet might prescribe anything from extra rest to an antibiotic depending on how severe the case is, but again, he or she will know best.

How can I prevent kennel cough?

Kennel cough's major contributor is the bordetella virus, so making your sure your dog is up to date on the bordetella vaccine and any subsequent booster shots is your best form of prevention. And while your dog is a puppy and catching up on their shots or if your dog is immunocomprimised, it's probably best to stay away from large groups of dogs to avoid contamination.