How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?

Kelly Roper
sick dog in bed

There are many factors that determine how long a case of kennel cough will last. While some cases resolve quickly without medication, other cases are more serious and last longer. You can help your dog recover more quickly by learning how to recognize the signs of a potential complication.

Average Duration of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis or canine cough, is the term used to describe a number of viral and bacterial infections that affect the bronchi, larynx and trachea. This contagious respiratory disease can affect a dog at any stage of his life. The main symptom of the illness is a dry, hacking cough.

According to Pet Education.com, a dog may be sick for about ten days once symptoms appear. However, each case of kennel cough is unique, and your dog's infection may last for a shorter or longer period than average.

Many factors determine how long a case of kennel cough may last. These factors include:

  • Dog health: A healthy dog has the best chance of recovering quickly. Dogs with weak immune systems or other health conditions, such as a collapsing trachea, may be susceptible to secondary infections.
  • Age of the dog: A young dog may fight off the infection easier than a more mature dog.
  • Type of infection: A dog may recover from some viral forms of the infection quickly without medication. However, he still may have a lingering bacterial infection that requires antibiotics to resolve it over an extended period of time.
  • Secondary infections: Sometimes a secondary infection occurs, in addition to kennel cough, that results in a serious upper respiratory infection. A case of kennel cough with a secondary infection usually takes longer to resolve than one without complications.

Complications that May Prolong Kennel Cough

Once a dog is exposed to the airborne infection, the pathogens invade the body and disrupt the normal function of the respiratory system. Over a three to ten day incubation period, the pathogens temporarily destroy the protective cilia lining of the larynx, trachea and bronchi. Without the protective lining, the pathogens may also move into the lungs and trigger a secondary infection in some dogs.

Small breeds, puppies, dogs with weak immune systems and dogs with pre-existing health conditions such as chronic bronchitis are even more susceptible to developing a secondary infection. The most common secondary infection is pneumonia.

Signs of kennel cough with a secondary infection include:

  • Fever
  • Deep, congested cough
  • Thick nasal discharge
  • Labored breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

According to Pet Education.com, cases of kennel cough with a secondary infection can last between two weeks to nearly one month, perhaps longer without medical intervention.

Early Veterinary Care May Speed Recovery

If you suspect that your dog has kennel cough, it is a good idea to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. Early treatment, including the use of antibiotics, a decongestant or bronchodilators, may be necessary to speed your dog's recovery and prevent a secondary infection from prolonging your pet's illness.

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How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?