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What You Need to Know About Kennel Cough

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Taking A Closer Look At Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough like chihuahuas

Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease in dogs that is caused by a variety of bacteria or viruses. It affects the upper airways but can sometimes affect the lungs in more severe cases.

Some dogs are carriers of the disease and may show no symptoms while others will get the full-blown condition. With that said, let us take a closer look at this unwelcome disease to see if it can be prevented, the cure, and what you can do to protect your dog against kennel cough.

The most common type of kennel cough is caused by a bacterium known as Bordetella Bronchiseptica. If kennel cough is caused by this type of bacterium the symptoms may only last around ten days. However, the dog can still pass on this disease for up to 14 weeks. This condition may come with a combination of both the Bordetella bacteria and the canine parainfluenza virus.

These two combined causes more problems, because the virus attacks the cells in the respiratory tract and can even harm the trachea, especially in smaller dogs like chihuahuas.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is not life-threatening, but can be uncomfortable for your dog. The cough can be quite unsettling for us pet parents and is usually a dry honking type cough that may also have a retch at the end.

Be aware that there are other medical conditions that chihuahuas are prone to that can mimic kennel cough such as heart enlargement and tracheal collapse.

It can vary from a cough every few minutes to a constant cough while they are lying down, walking, and going about their daily business.

Some dogs can develop a fever during this time, in which case they will need plenty of rest and extra tender loving care to help them through this as quickly as possible.

Most dogs with kennel cough will not appear lethargic, but dogs with compromised immune systems or very small dogs may have a hard time with this disease. Dogs that are lethargic means that the condition is taking a toll on their body, and possibly their mental state, so be sure to give him plenty of nutrition and rest, as well as take him to the vet to make sure there aren’t any other underlying conditions.

What to Do About Kennel Cough

Your vet will generally, in most cases, advise on plenty of rest although antibiotics may be prescribed for a secondary infection, and he may even be able to give you a cough medicine to ease the symptoms.

There are some things that we as owners can do to help our best friend in the prevention of kennel cough as well as help him if he has caught kennel cough. There is a vaccine against the Bordetella bacterium, and it is highly recommended to get this vaccine because this is the main cause of kennel cough.

Keep in mind, that the vaccine doesn’t guarantee your dog won’t catch kennel cough because there are other viruses and bacteria that can cause it too. However, this vaccine just gives them a better chance of not catching it.

I worked in a pet hotel for a while and all dogs entering the hotel had to have proof they had been vaccinated for Bordetella. Every once in a while, one dog would have it and before long, there would be an outbreak with a quarter or so of the dogs in the hotel catching it even though they all had been vaccinated.

A dog with kennel cough will benefit from a harness instead of a leash during this time, so it doesn’t put unwanted pressure on the neck and throat area, which will aggravate the condition. Of course chihuahuas in general, should always have their leash attached to a harness instead of their collar due to their fragile necks.

chihuahua with harness and leash

In addition, do not let your dog drink or eat from other bowls in the home if there are other pets in the house, as this will lessen the chance of the disease spreading to other dogs.

Humans cannot contract kennel cough, so give him as much loving care as possible. If your fur baby is happy on your lap or bed then maybe you can allow him longer times in these safe places to make him feel better.

The Prognosis of Kennel Cough

In many cases, kennel cough will clear up on its own without treatment. It’s a bit like us having a cold, we just have to wait it out.

It is impossible to tell how long a case will last because each dog is unique and individual cases will vary from breed to breed. Smaller dogs with compromised immune systems may last longer than a healthy larger breed.

There are rare cases that can cause problems with secondary infections, so it is important to visit the vet if you suspect or know your dog has kennel cough.

If you have a home with multiple dogs, and one has kennel cough it may be wise to separate them until the all-clear is given.

Finally, although most cases clear up in around 10 to 15 days remember they can still pass it on for many weeks after this, so taking the time to prepare for this illness should it arise, and it can help to ensure that your pet can recover quickly once kennel cough arises for him or her.

Has your dog ever had kennel cough? If so, I’d be interested in hearing your experiences with it. Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Click to find about other chihuahua health problems.

woman kneeling in front of a dog outside in snow

Paula Simons


This article has been reviewed, fact-checked, and approved by Dr. Paula Simons DVM. You can read more about her on our About page.

sandra bradshaw

Friday 17th of June 2022

the chi maybe be threatened with the speed of the car and the man patting him in such a heartless way, and being in his own bed, made the chi angry.


Friday 17th of June 2022

that's entirely possible Sandra.

Patti Herbert

Tuesday 8th of October 2019

My Chihuahua, Princess, has kennel cough. Is a recent rescue. My vet said it appears Princess contracted a mild case of the disease from the live nasal vaccine. She was spayed a week ago and received her shots at the same time. Hot steam from running the shower, helps her as well as meds she was prescribed for her fever. Some breeds are very sensitive to live vaccine. Princess, at six years of age, appears to be one of them. Is recovering well now. Patti Herbert


Tuesday 8th of October 2019

Yeah Chihuahuas, being as tiny as they are tend to be sensitive to all vaccines. I'm glad she's getting better Patti.

Sunday 11th of August 2019

Yes my Chihuahua has the cough! I would hope that any dog with this be on antibiotics!! The older the dog the worse it is please don't wait see your Vet as soon as possible!!


Sunday 11th of August 2019

Do you know how your dog got kennel cough?

My Dog Store

Saturday 6th of May 2017

Keeping your dog healthy and strong is the first step. Also, you should not let your dog stray away too much since kennel cough is a highly contagious disease.


Tuesday 14th of April 2020

My brother has come to live in my home with his approximately 12 year old deer eared chihuahua (Rebel). Rebel has a horrible cough and until I read your thing on kennel cough I was convinced he had heart worms. He has not been to a vet a my brothers finances wouldnt allow it. He says that Rebel has been coughing 3 years but only in the past year and half has it been so persistent. What are your thoughts on this? Also not to stray from this conversation but Rebel has never been able to potty train and my carpet and I are really suffering. Any help with this much appreciated...