Kennel cough is a disease, often contracted in kennels, that affects dogs. It is a highly contagious illness that is normally contracted in places like daycares, dog parks, training centers, or kennels where many different dogs come together and spend time in the same area.

Kennel cough is actually an umbrella term for a handful of different viruses and bacteria that cause respiratory illness in dogs. It is spread through physical contact between dogs or through surfaces that multiple dogs would touch like food bowls, water bowls, or toys. It can also be transmitted by aerosols, released when a sick dog coughs or sneezes.

You can help prevent your dog from contracting kennel cough by getting him or her vaccinated for Bordetella, which is one of the most common infectious organisms to cause kennel cough.

If your dog is in any way immunocompromised, it may be the best course of action to keep your dog away from places where large groups of dogs congregate like parks or daycares.

Although kennel cough is very contagious, it can be easily treated in most dogs. In order to treat kennel cough, you must first know its symptoms of it. Symptoms usually develop within 10 days of your dog being exposed to the illness.

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is suggested that you reach out to a trusted veterinarian in order to properly treat your pup. Below are five symptoms of kennel cough:

Strong Cough

The most obvious symptom of kennel cough is a loud cough sometimes accompanied by a “honking” noise. A “wet” cough is more serious because this type of cough can progress into pneumonia if not treated, which is a more serious illness.

Most dogs will exhibit only this symptom but this symptom could be accompanied by others. Dogs do cough here and there, but consistent coughing or a cough that sounds loud or “wet” is probably a sign of a problem with your pet’s health.

Runny Nose and/or Sneezing

Dogs often sneeze if something irritating enters their nasal passages to dislodge and remove it. Sometimes dogs will sneeze when playing, but this is just their way of letting you, the human, know that they, the pup, are just horsing around and not really attacking you.

Additionally, dogs, like humans, are sensitive to allergens like dust, but they are not known to casually sneeze for any other reason than these. If your dog is sneezing regularly, it could be a sign of something more serious. This includes kennel cough, especially if your dog is also coughing loud or often.


A common symptom of any disease is lethargy. Your dog may be considered lethargic if he or she is sleeping more than usual or seems less interested in the things he or she enjoys. This could include playing, going for walks, or other activities that require energy.

Most diseases and illnesses cause a dog to become lethargic, especially diseases that deal with the respiratory system. If your dog is experiencing kennel cough, it is likely that he or she will be lethargic due to the damage done to his or her respiratory system.

Since kennel cough makes the dog’s respiratory system work harder, it is likely that your dog will have to expel more energy to catch his or her breath and will become less energetic or less capable of going on walks or playing for long periods of time.

Loss of Appetite

Another common symptom of the disease is a loss of appetite in your pet. A loss of appetite can be defined as eating less or not eating at all. If you notice your dog is eating less than usual, that could be a sign that something is wrong with him or her.

Loss of appetite is a surefire sign that there is something going on with your dog. If a loss of appetite is accompanied by a bad, “honking” cough, then it is likely your dog is suffering from kennel cough.

Low Fever

Although a low fever could be a sign of a disease or illness, your dog’s temperature could also be rising due to external heat or physical activity. Dogs often get a spike in their internal temperature when they play outside on a hot day or go for a very long walk.

A low fever becomes a sign of something more serious when your dog has a low fever or feels warm for multiple days in a row. Low fever accompanied by a cough could be a sign of kennel cough or another illness.

It is not easy to tell when your dog has a low fever for sure because the only way to truly know if your dog has a fever is to take their temperature rectally. Unless you regularly take their temperature, it is hard to discern if your dog has an actual fever.

If your dog seems sick in other ways or is exhibiting other symptoms, it is a good idea to take their temperature before sending him or her to the vet. A fever of 102 or above would warrant a trip to see a veterinarian. A fever of 104 and above would warrant more extreme measures like a trip to the emergency vet.

Keep an Eye Out for Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Madison, WI

These symptoms could all be signs of kennel cough, however, some dogs that contract kennel cough may not show any symptoms. It is possible that your dog will only cough if they come down with kennel cough, so if you are worried about your dog’s coughing it is a good idea to seek out the opinion of a trusted veterinarian.

Although kennel cough is a highly treatable disease, it is very contagious. Knowing the warning signs of kennel cough is the best place to start when trying to diagnose your dog’s symptoms or strange behavior. The best course of action is to prevent kennel cough by vaccinating your dog.

That being said, vaccination does not guarantee your dog will not contract kennel cough. If your dog does contract kennel cough, assessing his or her symptoms is the best way to get his or her accurately treated.

About PetCare Animal Hospital

Since 1975, Petcare Animal Hospital has been serving the Madison, WI pet community with the highest standards of care. We truly believe that pets should be treated like family, so we give them the same care we would expect for our own pets.