Kennel cough is an infectious bronchitis of dogs characterized by a harsh, hacking cough that most people describe as sounding like “something stuck in my dog’s throat.” This bronchitis may be of brief duration and mild enough to warrant no treatment at all or it may progress all the way to a life-threatening pneumonia depending on which infectious agents are involved and the immunological strength of the patient. An uncomplicated kennel cough runs a course of a week or two and entails frequent fits of coughing in a patient who otherwise feels active and normal. Uncomplicated cases do not involve fever or listlessness, just lots of coughing.
Because it is common for Bordetella to be accompanied by at least one other infectious agent, kennel cough is actually a complex of infections rather than infection by one agent.
Classically, dogs get infected when they are kept in a crowded situation with poor air circulation and lots of warm air (i.e., a boarding kennel, vaccination clinic, obedience class, local park, animal shelter, animal hospital waiting room, or grooming parlor). In reality, most causes of coughing that begin acutely in a dog are due to infectious causes and usually represent some form of kennel cough.
The incubation period is 2-14 days. Dogs are typically sick for 1-2 weeks. Infected dogs shed the Bordetella organism for 2-3 months following infection.