Max has kennel cough?

Ask the Vet

Q: We boarded our Springer Spaniel, Max, last week while we were on vacation. Now he is coughing a lot. Could he have caught a cold while he was boarding? J.A., Farragut

A: Max should be examined by your veterinarian to make sure his heart and lungs sound normal. Yes, it is possible Max caught something while boarding. We have seen several small outbreaks this summer of kennel cough.

Kennel cough is the common name for tracheobronchitis, a contagious disease that is caused by bacteria, most notably Bordetella, and several different viruses. It is typically mild, and dogs usually feel well, do not have fevers, and have normal appetites. However, in very young, very old or animals with depressed immune systems, it can be more serious and progress to pneumonia.

Max certainly could have been exposed at the kennel, but it’s possible that he was exposed before arriving at the kennel. The disease is fairly contagious, and the viral particles are aerosolized each time a dog coughs. Kennel cough is easily spread anywhere there is a group of dogs together, but luckily the disease is generally self-limiting. Antibiotics are used to combat the bacterial portion of this disease, but the viral component must run its course. Cough suppressants can be used if coughing is severe and or the pet is having difficulty resting.

There is a vaccine available to help prevent dogs from contracting kennel cough, but it will not help if your pet is already coughing. If Max is not currently vaccinated for kennel cough, I would recommend you do so before taking him to the kennel, dog park, groomer, etc. And he should not socialize with other pets until five to seven days after the cough has stopped.

I hope Max feels better soon. If he has kennel cough, it can last two to four weeks. Please let your veterinarian know if he is not improving or if the cough lasts longer than expected.

If you have questions about your pet, you may e-mail Dr. Myers at