How Long Does It Take for Kennel Cough to Go Away with Antibiotics?

Kennel cough, also known as Bordetella or canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a common respiratory ailment that affects many dogs. As a responsible dog owner, understanding its nuances, treatment protocols, and what to expect can help in ensuring your pet’s rapid recovery. So, how long does it take for kennel cough to go away with the administration of antibiotics?

What is Kennel Cough?

Firstly, let’s clarify what kennel cough is. Kennel cough is a broad term that describes a combination of viral and bacterial infections leading to inflammation in a dog’s windpipe and voice box. It manifests as a dry, hacking cough and can spread quickly in environments where multiple dogs congregate, such as kennels, dog parks, and daycare facilities.

Treating Kennel Cough with Antibiotics: What to Expect?

1. Duration of Treatment

Typically, with antibiotic treatment, symptoms of kennel cough start to improve within a week. However, the complete recovery process may take anywhere from 10 days to 3 weeks. It’s crucial to complete the full antibiotic course, even if the symptoms diminish, to ensure the bacteria’s complete eradication.

2. Contagious Period

While the symptoms may start receding within a week, your dog could still be contagious. It’s recommended to isolate your dog from other canines for at least 10-14 days or until the cough completely subsides.

3. Potential Complications

In some cases, kennel cough might pave the way for secondary infections or complications, extending the recovery period. Watch out for symptoms such as lethargy, difficulty in breathing, and loss of appetite. If noticed, contact your vet immediately.

Beyond Antibiotics: Additional Care Tips

While antibiotics are effective against the bacterial component of kennel cough, they won’t directly combat viral infections. Here are some additional tips to expedite recovery:

  • Humidifiers: A humidifier can help soothe your dog’s respiratory tract, alleviating the symptoms.
  • Avoid Irritants: Keep your pet away from dusty or smoky environments.
  • Stay Calm and Rest: Just like humans, dogs recover faster with adequate rest. Avoid any strenuous activities during the recovery period.

Prevention is Better than Cure

To safeguard your dog from recurrent bouts of kennel cough:

  • Vaccination: Bordetella vaccination can offer protection against the bacterial component of kennel cough.
  • Hygiene: Regularly clean and disinfect your dog’s living area.
  • Avoid Crowded Spaces: Especially if there’s an outbreak, it’s wise to avoid places with many dogs.

In Conclusion

Kennel cough, when treated with antibiotics, often shows improvement within a week. However, recovery might vary based on individual health factors and the presence of complications. Being observant, providing a comfortable environment, and adhering to the prescribed medications are key to ensuring a swift and full recovery for your furry friend.

FAQs about Kennel Cough and Antibiotics

1. Why is my dog still coughing after completing the antibiotic course?

While antibiotics are effective in treating bacterial causes of kennel cough, the condition can also be caused by viruses which antibiotics can’t directly treat. If your dog’s cough persists post-treatment, it might be due to:

  • Viral Infections: The viral component might still be in its healing phase.
  • Secondary Infections: Sometimes, kennel cough can lead to secondary respiratory infections.
  • Irritants: Exposure to smoke, dust, or cold air might exacerbate the symptoms.

2. Can humans catch kennel cough from dogs?

Humans, especially those with compromised immune systems, can be susceptible to the Bordetella bacterium. However, it’s rare. Proper hygiene, like washing hands after handling a sick dog, further minimizes this risk.

3. Can a vaccinated dog still get kennel cough?

Yes. While vaccinations significantly reduce the risk, they don’t guarantee 100% protection. There are multiple strains of the causative agents, and a vaccine might not cover them all.

4. Are there any natural remedies to supplement antibiotic treatment?

Several natural remedies might provide relief:

  • Honey: A natural anti-inflammatory that can soothe the throat.
  • Coconut oil: Contains lauric acid which can help combat pathogens.
  • Probiotics: Bolster the dog’s immune system, aiding in a faster recovery.

However, always consult with a vet before introducing any new remedies.

5. How can I prevent my dog from getting kennel cough again?

  • Regular Vaccinations: Stay updated with Bordetella vaccinations.
  • Avoid High-Risk Areas: Limit visits to crowded dog parks during kennel cough outbreaks.
  • Boost Immunity: A balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate rest can strengthen your dog’s immune system.

6. Should I be worried if my dog’s kennel cough symptoms seem severe?

Most cases of kennel cough are mild, but severe symptoms can arise, especially in puppies, senior dogs, or those with existing health issues. If your dog shows signs like a high fever, loss of appetite, or extreme lethargy, seek immediate veterinary care.

7. Can my dog spread kennel cough to my other pets?

Yes, kennel cough is highly contagious among dogs. If one of your pets is infected, it’s wise to isolate them to prevent spreading it to your other dogs.

8. Is there a specific time of year when kennel cough is more prevalent?

Kennel cough can occur at any time, but it’s often seen more during seasons when dogs are indoors in close quarters, typically winter months in colder regions.

9. My dog doesn’t interact with other dogs. Can they still get kennel cough?

While the risk is lower, it’s still possible. The pathogens can be airborne or can linger on surfaces. Dogs can also contract it from shared toys, water bowls, or even from human clothing if they’ve come in contact with an infected dog.

10. What is the difference between kennel cough and canine influenza?

Both conditions display coughing symptoms, but canine influenza (dog flu) is more severe and can cause high fevers, nasal discharges, and even pneumonia. If your dog’s symptoms seem more extreme than a regular dry cough, consult your vet immediately.

11. What role do environmental factors play in kennel cough’s severity and duration?

Environmental irritants like smoke, dust, or mold can aggravate kennel cough symptoms. A cleaner environment with fresh air can expedite the recovery process by reducing additional strain on the dog’s respiratory system.

12. Are certain breeds more susceptible to kennel cough?

While any dog can contract kennel cough, brachycephalic breeds (like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus) with shorter noses and flat faces might experience more severe symptoms due to their respiratory structure.

13. How soon after exposure to an infected dog will symptoms appear?

Typically, symptoms of kennel cough develop within 3-10 days post-exposure. Monitoring your dog after they’ve interacted with a coughing dog can help in early detection and management.

14. Can kennel cough lead to more severe conditions?

Yes, if left untreated or in dogs with compromised immune systems, kennel cough can progress to conditions like pneumonia which require more intensive treatment.

15. Do cats get kennel cough?

Cats can get a similar condition, often referred to as ‘feline bordetellosis’, caused by the same Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium. However, it’s less common in cats than dogs.

16. How often should my dog get the Bordetella vaccine?

It’s generally recommended that dogs receive the Bordetella vaccine annually, but dogs at higher risk (those who frequently visit dog parks, boarding kennels, or attend dog shows) might benefit from getting it every six months.

17. Is it possible for a dog to get kennel cough more than once?

Yes, just like humans can catch a cold multiple times, dogs can get kennel cough more than once, especially if exposed to different strains of the virus or bacteria.

18. How is kennel cough diagnosed?

A vet will typically diagnose kennel cough based on clinical signs, history of exposure, and a physical examination. In ambiguous cases, laboratory tests might be conducted.

19. Should I board my dog if they recently recovered from kennel cough?

It’s advisable to wait for at least two weeks post-recovery before boarding to ensure they’re no longer contagious and to prevent potential reinfection.

20. Can stress trigger kennel cough symptoms in dogs?

Stress doesn’t directly cause kennel cough but can weaken a dog’s immune system, making them more susceptible to illnesses. A stressed dog might struggle more with recovery, so it’s essential to ensure they have a calm environment.

21. How can I bolster my dog’s immune system to prevent kennel cough?

A balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding undue stress are essential factors. Additionally, supplements like omega-3 fatty acids or antioxidants could aid in enhancing the immune system. However, always consult with your veterinarian before introducing any new supplements.

22. How long can the kennel cough virus live outside a host?

Most strains of the kennel cough-causing agents survive a few minutes to hours in the environment. It’s always good practice to disinfect shared items and spaces if a dog has been diagnosed with kennel cough.

23. Can humans catch kennel cough from their pets?

While the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium primarily affects animals, it can, in rare instances, infect immunocompromised humans. That said, the chances are exceptionally low, and regular kennel cough isn’t typically a risk to healthy individuals.

24. What are the potential side effects of antibiotics prescribed for kennel cough?

Some dogs might experience gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting. It’s essential to monitor your pet for any adverse reactions and inform the vet if you notice anything unusual.

25. Are over-the-counter cough suppressants safe for dogs?

Some human OTC cough suppressants might be safe for dogs in the correct dosage, but it’s imperative to consult with a veterinarian before administering any human medications to pets.

26. If my dog was previously vaccinated against kennel cough but still got infected, does it mean the vaccine was ineffective?

Not necessarily. The vaccine primarily guards against the Bordetella bacterium, but kennel cough can be caused by various pathogens. The vaccine can also reduce the severity of the symptoms if the dog does get infected.

27. Does cold weather influence kennel cough’s onset or severity?

Cold and damp conditions can potentially exacerbate the symptoms of respiratory diseases, including kennel cough. It’s advisable to keep your dog warm and dry during such weather conditions.

28. If my dog has had kennel cough, will they develop a natural immunity?

Just as with human colds, having kennel cough once does provide some immunity. However, this immunity might not last very long, and because various agents can cause kennel cough, re-infection is possible.

29. Are puppies more at risk for severe symptoms of kennel cough?

Yes, puppies, similar to older dogs, have more vulnerable immune systems, making them prone to severe manifestations of the disease.

30. If multiple pets in a household get kennel cough, should they be isolated from each other?

If all pets are already exhibiting symptoms, isolation might not be beneficial as they’ve likely been exposed to the same strain. However, if some pets are yet symptom-free, it’s wise to separate them from infected animals to reduce the chances of spread.


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