My dogs had kennel cough. Here’s what it was like.

We all know that dogs can get sick just like people. That’s why several canine vaccinations exist, to help keep our furry friends happy and healthy. However, no vaccine is 100% effective, and that’s why despite vaccination, both Athena and Nike got kennel cough.

What is kennel cough anyway?

I would describe kennel cough as a doggy flu – or maybe even a doggy COVID. Dogs with kennel cough have a scary-sounding cough, which sounds like hacking or vomiting. I will attach a video below of Athena coughing so you have an idea of what it sounds like.

Kennel cough lasts for as long as 6 weeks, at which point it’s important to check for pneumonia. Also, you should know that symptoms don’t always appear right away. They can appear between 2-14 days, so asymptomatic dogs can spread the virus.

It is called “kennel” cough because most dogs get it from crowded spaces with several other dogs like a kennel. However, your dog can get it from just one other dog with the virus in their system. It is highly contagious.

How bad is it?

This strongly depends on the dog, and how soon you notice that they’re sick. With puppies and older dogs, the risk for a serious illness is higher. As I already said, the vaccine doesn’t prevent it either; however, it does lessen the effects.

Athena was coughing for two straight weeks, but we didn’t know she had kennel cough for a few days. Nike was sick for just one or two days because we quickly got him on medicine. Both of them continued eating and playing normally, but those coughs were heartbreaking!

In both cases, medicine really helped. If you have a vet prescribe something for kennel cough, it is very likely that they’ll give you an antibiotic.

For the most part, a dog with kennel cough will act completely normal despite their symptoms. This includes eating, drinking, and playing like usual, although they may sleep more since they are recovering. If you notice a change in their behavior, please contact a vet.

Giving pills is the worst.

Probably the most dreaded thing about having sick dogs is having to administer the medication. Nike luckily took every pill with no problems using the usual method – hiding the pill in a piece of meat or cheese.

However, after two pills a day for two weeks, Athena figured out she could eat around the hot dog, cheese cube, pill pocket, or whatever and spit out the pill. If this sounds like your dog, read on!

It is tempting in our frustration to just shove the pill down our dog’s throat and be on our way. However, you want it to get easier, not harder. So, remember to create a positive association with swallowing pills, and make it easier using training!

First, make sure your dog is calm. Don’t try to restrain them, and don’t get stressed out yourself. Calmly put your hand over your dog’s muzzle and lift their jaw up and back. With your free hand, place the pill as far back as you can – over the bump of the tongue is best. Blow gently on your pup’s nose and rub their throat to encourage swallow reflexes, and then give them a yummy treat!

Now, this is much harder than that paragraph sounds. Be patient and remain calm; it will probably start out more like shoving a pill back and then shoving a treat in. But over time, this method helped Athena get used to taking pills and stay more calm during the process!

Here is some more information from AKC, and from VCA Animal Hospital, which I used to work with my dogs.

Your dog will be okay.

I was really worried about my dogs when I first heard them coughing, but kennel cough is very normal and common. Again, it’s like a doggy flu or COVID – it is highly contagious, so it spreads fast. If my experience is anything to go by, your pup will be just fine as long as you follow the advice of your vet!

Here’s the video mentioned earlier:

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