Incubation Period for Canine Kennel Cough

A veterinarian is the best resource for diagnosing and treating your dog.
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You adopted Buddy from a shelter last week and he's got a hacking, guttural cough that sounds frightful. Isolate him from other pets and see a veterinarian; he may have canine kennel cough, a contagious respiratory infection that inflames the larynx and trachea and incubates within three to 10 days of exposure. The severity of his infection will determine the veterinarian's course of treatment.


An infected dog can transmit kennel cough to healthy canines either through the air or by contaminating surfaces with his germs. This is problematic because symptoms aren't apparent during the incubation period.

Shelters, boarding kennels and training and grooming facilities are all breeding grounds for this infection that's usually comprised of bacterial and viral components. Two of the most prevalent are parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria; thus kennel cough is often referred to as Bordetella.


The nagging, honking cough may be the only sign of infection; however, irritated eyes, runny nose and retching up phlegm can also be present.

In advanced cases, the cough may be accompanied by another bacterial infection such as pneumonia. The pet often loses his appetite, is feverish, tired and has difficulty breathing. Puppies and younger dogs are more susceptible to severe kennel cough as their immune systems are not fully developed.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Explain symptoms to the veterinarian. Blood work and a urinalysis may be required. Depending on the results, he may allow the cough to run its course or prescribe medications.

Make sure the dog has plenty of water and is eating regularly. Have him rest in a steamy bathroom or near a humidifier. Keep him away from cigarette smoke and use a harness for walks. Continue isolating him from pets; while symptoms may last a few weeks, he could be infectious up to three months.


Consult a veterinarian about vaccinations that deter kennel cough. If you utilize a dog daycare or board your pet, make sure the facility requires the vaccine. Limit his exposure to other canines; even sniffing an infected dog or sharing a water bowl may spread kennel cough.

In very rare instances kennel cough can be transmitted to humans with compromised immune systems, including young children and the elderly; discuss precautions with a veterinarian.