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Navigating kennel cough and canine strolls: Can I walk my dog with kennel cough?

Walking your dog with kennel cough should be avoided to prevent spreading the infection. Rest and isolation are key for recovery.

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs. It is characterized by a persistent, dry, hacking cough that often sounds like a honking noise. Kennel cough is similar to a cold or flu in humans and is typically not a severe or life-threatening illness. However, it can be uncomfortable and bothersome for affected dogs and may lead to secondary complications if left untreated.

Kennel cough is caused by a combination of infectious agents, including viruses and bacteria.

The most common culprits are:

  1. Bordetella bronchiseptica: This bacterium is one of the primary causes of kennel cough. It can infect a dog's respiratory tract, leading to coughing and other symptoms.

  2. Canine parainfluenza virus: This virus is another common cause of kennel cough. It is often found in conjunction with Bordetella bronchiseptica.

  3. Other viruses and bacteria: In some cases, other viral and bacterial pathogens can contribute to kennel cough, making it a complex disease with multiple potential causes.

Kennel cough is highly contagious and can spread through the air when infected dogs cough or sneeze. It can also be transmitted through direct contact with respiratory secretions or contaminated surfaces. Dogs in close quarters, such as boarding kennels, animal shelters, dog parks, and similar environments, are at a higher risk of contracting kennel cough.

Symptoms of kennel cough typically include the dry, persistent cough, retching, and sometimes nasal discharge. Most dogs with kennel cough remain alert and active, but the coughing can be bothersome. In mild cases, the infection may resolve on its own, but in some instances, especially if there are secondary bacterial infections, antibiotics may be prescribed by a veterinarian.

Preventative measures, such as vaccination and good hygiene practices, can help reduce the risk of kennel cough in dogs, especially those frequently exposed to other dogs in communal settings.

How do dogs get kennel cough?

Dogs can contract kennel cough, or canine infectious tracheobronchitis, through various means, primarily through close contact with infected dogs or contaminated environments.

Here are some common ways dogs can get kennel cough:

  1. Direct Contact: The most common way dogs contract kennel cough is through direct contact with infected dogs. This can occur during play at a dog park, in boarding kennels, or at training classes. When infected dogs cough or sneeze, they release respiratory secretions containing the infectious agents into the environment. Healthy dogs that come into contact with these aerosolized particles can inhale the pathogens, leading to infection.

  2. Contaminated Surfaces: Kennel cough pathogens can survive on various surfaces, such as dog bowls, toys, collars, and grooming equipment. If a healthy dog comes into contact with these contaminated items and then touches its nose or mouth, it can become infected.

  3. Airborne Transmission: In areas with poor ventilation, such as crowded or enclosed spaces, kennel cough pathogens can remain suspended in the air for some time. Dogs in these environments may inhale the pathogens and become infected.

  4. Stress and Weakened Immune System: Stress and a weakened immune system can make dogs more susceptible to infections, including kennel cough. Stressors like travel, changes in routine, or exposure to harsh environmental conditions can increase a dog's vulnerability.

  5. Underlying Conditions: Dogs with preexisting respiratory conditions or other health issues may be more susceptible to kennel cough. These conditions can weaken the dog's respiratory defenses and make it easier for the infection to take hold.

It's important to note that kennel cough is highly contagious, and even dogs that show no symptoms can be carriers and spread the disease to others. It's a good practice to keep your dog up to date with vaccinations, especially if they are frequently exposed to other dogs in communal settings. Check out our blog on 'Oral Kennel Cough Vaccinesto learn more about kennel cough vaccines for dogs in the UK. Additionally, practicing good hygiene, such as regular hand-washing and cleaning and disinfecting pet items and surfaces, can help reduce the risk of infection and the spread of kennel cough.

What are the signs of kennel cough in dogs?

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, can manifest with several signs and symptoms in dogs.

The most common symptoms of kennel cough include:

  1. Persistent Cough: The hallmark sign of kennel cough is a dry, hacking cough that is often described as a honking noise. The cough can be frequent and may sound like your dog is trying to clear its throat.

  2. Sneezing: Dogs with kennel cough may also exhibit sneezing, often in association with nasal discharge.

  3. Nasal Discharge: Some dogs with kennel cough may have clear or watery nasal discharge, which is typically not as prominent as in other respiratory conditions like a cold or flu.

  4. Eye Discharge: Watery or slightly thicker eye discharge can also occur in some cases.

  5. Coughing Fits: Dogs with kennel cough may experience coughing fits, especially when they are excited, active, or when they pull on their leash.

  6. Retching or Gagging: The coughing may sometimes cause dogs to retch or gag, although they usually do not vomit.

  7. Mild Lethargy: Some dogs with kennel cough may exhibit mild lethargy or a decrease in their normal activity level.

It's important to note that kennel cough is typically not a severe or life-threatening condition, and most dogs maintain their appetite and overall good health despite the symptoms. However, the cough can be bothersome and uncomfortable for affected dogs. In some cases, kennel cough can lead to secondary complications, such as pneumonia, especially in very young or immunocompromised dogs.

If you suspect your dog has kennel cough or if they display any of the above symptoms, it's advisable to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and guidance on treatment and management. Isolating the affected dog from other dogs can help prevent the spread of the infection, and your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or other treatments if necessary.

Can I walk my dog with kennel cough?

It is generally not advisable to walk your dog with kennel cough, especially if the symptoms are severe or your dog is still in the contagious stage of the illness. Kennel cough is highly contagious and can spread easily to other dogs, particularly in areas where dogs congregate, like parks and sidewalks.

It also has an incubation period of 3-14 days, so it's likely that your dog has been carrying the virus for a few days before showing symptoms.


Walking your dog while they have kennel cough can potentially expose other dogs to the infection, which is not only inconsiderate but may also be in violation of local regulations or rules in public spaces.

If your dog has been diagnosed with kennel cough, it's best to follow your veterinarian's guidance. They will likely recommend keeping your dog isolated from other dogs until they are no longer contagious. This may involve temporarily restricting walks and social interactions until your dog has recovered and is no longer shedding the infectious agents. Additionally, it's important to ensure your dog gets plenty of rest and stays hydrated during their recovery.

Always consult your veterinarian for advice on managing kennel cough and when it is safe to resume regular activities, including walks and social interactions with other dogs.

What Should I Do Instead?

Instead of going out walking, let your dog rest as much as possible in the house. If you have an enclosed outdoor space at your house, it's fine for your dogs to wander around here providing that it's not a space that's shared with other dogs.

If you find that your dog is getting restless without a walk, then engage them with some mental stimulation to wear their brains out. This can be as simple as spending some time playing with them and their favourite toy. Alternatively, why not use their isolation period to teach them a new trick or two?

If you feel that you have no other option but to walk your dog, make sure that you go a time when there will be very few other dogs around. Keep the distance short and use a harness rather than a collar. If you see another dog, keep away from them.


My dog is going to dog boarding, should I vaccinate against kennel cough?

Vaccinating your dog against kennel cough is often recommended, especially if your dog will be staying in a dog boarding facility. Kennel cough is highly contagious, and dogs in close quarters, such as boarding facilities, are at a higher risk of exposure to the infection. Here are some considerations regarding kennel cough vaccination:

  1. Boarding Facility Policies: Many boarding facilities require dogs to be vaccinated against kennel cough before they are admitted. This is a common precaution to reduce the risk of outbreaks in such communal settings. Make sure to check with the boarding facility about their specific vaccination requirements.

  2. Types of Vaccines: There are different types of kennel cough vaccines available, including injectable and intranasal vaccines. Your veterinarian can recommend the most appropriate type for your dog based on their age, health status, and specific needs.

  3. Timing of Vaccination: Kennel cough vaccines may not provide immediate immunity, and booster shots may be required. It's essential to plan ahead because your dog may need the vaccine several weeks before their boarding stay to ensure adequate protection.

  4. Discuss with Your Veterinarian: Your veterinarian is the best resource to determine the most appropriate vaccination schedule for your dog. They can also assess your dog's overall health and recommend any additional vaccinations or preventive measures based on your dog's individual needs.

  5. Vaccine Efficacy: While the kennel cough vaccine can reduce the severity of the disease and the risk of infection, it may not provide complete immunity, as there are multiple pathogens that can cause kennel cough. Even vaccinated dogs can contract a milder form of the illness. However, vaccination can help in limiting the spread of the disease.

In summary, vaccinating your dog against kennel cough is a sensible precaution, especially if your dog will be in a boarding facility. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action and ensure that your dog is up to date with vaccinations before their stay at the boarding facility. This will help protect your dog and prevent the potential spread of kennel cough to other dogs in the facility.

For more information regarding vaccinations for your dog, check out our blog