Reputable boarding kennels and dog daycare will ask for proof that your dog’s been vaccinated against kennel cough before you send them.
But if your vaccinated dog has started to cough, could they still have caught kennel cough somehow?
Unfortunately yes. The kennel cough vaccine protects our dogs against several, but not all, strains of kennel cough.
Other bacteria and viruses can cause kennel cough, so your dog can still catch it despite being vaccinated.
So is there any point getting the kennel cough vaccine?
Even though the kennel cough vaccine doesn’t offer 100% immunity from all strains, it’ll still help protect your dog if they’re regularly mixing with other dogs in a kennel environment. So it’s still well worth keeping up with those boosters.
“Although the vaccine does not cover all strains, it still protects them and is especially important for dogs with underlying heart or respiratory issues. It can also make the symptoms milder,” says veterinary surgeon Dr Sophie Bell.
The kennel cough vaccine, or Bordetella vaccine, protects your dog against the most common bacteria causing kennel cough, bordetella bronchiseptica. They’ll also have some protection from their other vaccinations because the infections these protect against, like parvo and distemper, can also cause kennel cough.
The average cost of a kennel cough booster in Great Britain was £49 in November 2023 and many vets will give a discount if you have it alongside your dog’s other jabs.
How is the kennel cough vaccine given?
Traditionally, the vaccine was administered into your dog’s nostril, but now there are some vaccines that can be given orally instead, which is easier for some dogs.
Dogs occasionally show mild symptoms after a kennel cough booster, like a human cold.
“It’s important to note that the virus is shed at a very weak level for up to 35 days from their nose and mouth and up to 70 days in faeces,” says vet Sophie Bell. “So be mindful when mixing with other dogs and always clear poo up immediately.”
Symptoms of kennel cough
The main symptoms of kennel cough are:
Anorexia (not eating)
Kennel cough can cause a nasty hacking cough as if they are trying to clear a bone from their throat. Some dogs develop a fever and become anorexic.
More serious complications are rare. But this upper respiratory tract infection can progress to the lungs causing pneumonia, which can be serious.
How infectious is kennel cough
Kennel cough is unpleasant but it’s not dangerous to most dogs. It is very easily spread between them though.
When your dog is infected, they’re shedding the virus and you can carry it on your clothing and shoes.
“It is highly contagious,” says vet Sophie Bell, “so be sure to keep them away from other dogs and if you need a vet visit, wait outside the clinic until the vet is ready for you.”
How to help your dog recover from kennel cough
Your dog needs rest and care to help them recover.
Make sure they have plenty of rest
Offer tasty, smelly foods if they’re not keen to eat
Give some honey with warm water as it can help soothe the throat and ease the cough
Most dogs will recover from kennel cough without needing treatment from a vet.
You must always get them checked by a vet if they seem unwell, go off their food or the breathing becomes laboured, rapid or both. These are signs that the condition may be declining.
If your dog does need to see the vet, they may prescribe an antibiotic, or cough medicine and anti-inflammatories to make your dog more comfortable. You can check the price of your dog's medication through an online pharmacy.
If you're worried about your dog's kennel cough symptoms, you can get unlimited, 24/7 online advice from a UK registered vet, any time of the night or day if you have one of our pet insurance policies.
How long does kennel cough last?
Kennel cough symptoms can last for a few weeks. The cough can carry on for quite a while, althoguh your dog may be otherwise well in themselves.
You shouldn’t walk their dog while they have initial symptoms. It won’t help their recovery and they can be infectious to other dogs.
You can take them for walks again once their symptoms ease, but you should stay away from other dogs for two-three weeks as they may still be shedding the virus.
They’ll probably find a harness more comfortable than a collar. A collar could rub on their neck and irritate their trachea, which could mean that their kennel cough recovery takes longer.