Is Bronchitis The Same As Kennel Cough In Dogs?

Bronchitis and kennel cough are two common respiratory conditions that affect dogs. Both cause coughing, but they have some key differences. Bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchial tubes, while kennel cough is an infectious upper respiratory disease. Kennel cough is usually mild and self-limiting, while bronchitis can become a more serious, chronic condition. However, kennel cough can sometimes trigger bronchitis in susceptible dogs.

Bronchitis in dogs occurs when the bronchi (the tubes connecting the windpipe to the lungs) become inflamed, causing coughing. It can be acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis often occurs secondary to infections, allergies, irritants, or underlying conditions. Chronic bronchitis involves long-term inflammation and damage to the bronchial tubes. Kennel cough, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by bacteria or viruses. The main symptoms are coughing and sneezing.

While the two conditions may initially appear similar, understanding the differences can help determine the cause and guide treatment. This article compares bronchitis and kennel cough in dogs – their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

What is Bronchitis in Dogs?

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, or the airways that carry air into and out of the lungs. In dogs, bronchitis often affects the trachea and larger bronchi [1]. The main symptoms of bronchitis in dogs include [1]:

  • Coughing, often harsh and dry
  • Wheezing
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Nasal discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Bronchitis can be acute or chronic in dogs. Acute bronchitis typically develops suddenly and may be caused by irritants, allergies, bacterial or viral infections, heartworm disease, or trauma to the chest. Chronic bronchitis involves long-term inflammation and is often secondary to other underlying conditions like allergies, asthma, or disorders of the nasal passages or larynx [2].

Some common causes of bronchitis in dogs include [1]:

  • Infections from viruses, bacteria, or parasites
  • Inhalation of irritants like dust, smoke, or chemicals
  • Allergies to pollen, mold, etc.
  • Heartworm disease
  • Lung trauma or foreign object inhalation

While most cases of bronchitis are acute and resolve with treatment, chronic bronchitis can lead to permanent lung damage over time if the underlying cause is not addressed.



What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is an upper respiratory infection, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, in dogs. It is highly contagious and can be passed between dogs through direct contact as well as airborne droplets when an infected dog coughs or sneezes (1). The most common symptoms of kennel cough include a persistent, forceful cough that often sounds like a goose honk. Dogs will also commonly have a runny nose and sneezing. In mild cases, symptoms usually last 7-10 days. More severe cases can last 3-4 weeks (2).

The most common causes of kennel cough are the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica and the virus Parainfluenza virus. It can also be caused by a variety of other bacteria and viruses. These pathogens infect the trachea and bronchi of infected dogs, leading to inflammation and increased mucus production. The cough is an attempt to expel the excess mucus. Dogs with weaker immune systems or those under stress, such as in crowded kennels, are most susceptible (1).


Differences Between Bronchitis and Kennel Cough

There are several key differences between bronchitis and kennel cough in dogs:

Duration of illness: Kennel cough typically lasts 10 to 20 days, while bronchitis can last for weeks or even months if it becomes chronic (Source).

Severity of symptoms: Kennel cough usually causes mild symptoms like a harsh, dry cough. Bronchitis often causes more severe symptoms like wheezing, breathing difficulties, and discharge (Source).

Contagiousness: Kennel cough is highly contagious and spreads easily between dogs. Bronchitis is typically not contagious unless a dog has infectious bronchitis caused by certain bacteria or viruses (Source).

Similarities Between Bronchitis and Kennel Cough

Bronchitis and kennel cough share some common symptoms in dogs, which can make it difficult to distinguish between the two conditions. The main similarities between bronchitis and kennel cough include:


Both bronchitis and kennel cough cause coughing in dogs. With bronchitis, the cough may be dry and hacking or produce mucus. Kennel cough also leads to a forceful, hacking cough. Coughing is one of the primary symptoms of both bronchitis and kennel cough.

According to, the cough caused by kennel cough often sounds like a goose honking. Bronchitis can also cause honking coughs in dogs.

Runny Nose

A runny nose with nasal discharge can occur with both bronchitis and kennel cough. The nasal discharge may be clear or contain mucus or pus. Snorting and sneezing along with the runny nose can also happen with either condition.

Breathing Difficulties

Bronchitis and kennel cough can both lead to breathing problems in dogs. The inflammation and mucus caused by these conditions can make it difficult for dogs to breathe. You may notice rapid or labored breathing as the dog struggles to get enough air.

According to, some dogs with severe bronchitis or kennel cough may start to turn blue around the gums, indicating a lack of oxygen.


The vet will perform a thorough physical exam to help diagnose bronchitis in dogs. They will listen to the dog’s chest with a stethoscope to check for abnormal breathing sounds that could indicate inflammation or infection in the airways. The vet may also take the dog’s temperature and assess its general health condition.

Chest x-rays are an important diagnostic tool. They allow the vet to see the lungs, bronchi, and trachea. X-rays can reveal abnormalities or obstructions in the airways that signal bronchitis. They also help determine the severity of the condition.

Other diagnostic tests the vet may use include a complete blood count, arterial blood gas analysis, bronchoscopy to visually examine the airways, tracheal wash to collect fluid samples, and culture of mucus from the respiratory tract to identify any underlying infections. Analysis of these samples can pinpoint the cause of the bronchitis (


The treatment for bronchitis in dogs depends on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, rest may be the only therapy needed for the dog to recover. It’s important for dogs with bronchitis to avoid strenuous activity and get plenty of rest to allow the airways time to heal.

For more severe cases, medications may be prescribed by a veterinarian. Antibiotics like doxycycline may be used to treat underlying bacterial infections causing bronchitis. Cough suppressants like hydrocodone or bronchodilators like theophylline can help reduce coughing and open up the airways. Anti-inflammatories like prednisone help reduce inflammation in the lungs and airways.

In the most extreme cases where a dog is struggling to breathe, oxygen therapy may be administered. This involves the dog breathing pure oxygen through a face mask to help get oxygen into the lungs and bloodstream. Oxygen therapy allows the lungs to rest and recover while still oxygenating the body. Most dogs only need supplemental oxygen for a few days during the peak of bronchitis symptoms.

With proper rest, medication, and veterinary care, most dogs are able to make a full recovery from bronchitis within 2 to 3 weeks. Avoiding reexposure to irritants can help prevent recurring bouts of bronchitis in dogs prone to the condition.


Vaccination is the most important way to prevent kennel cough in dogs. The primary vaccine is known as Bordetella bronchiseptica, which helps protect against the most common bacteria that causes kennel cough. This vaccine is recommended especially for dogs that spend time in kennels, doggy daycares, groomers, dog parks, boarding facilities, or other areas where they interact with a lot of other dogs. Annual or semiannual boosters are recommended for the Bordetella vaccine.

Limiting exposure to irritants and allergens that can trigger bronchitis episodes in susceptible dogs is also key for prevention. This includes avoiding smoking around dogs, perfumes, chemicals, dust, pollen, cigarette smoke, and other air pollutants. Reducing stress, providing good nutrition, ensuring sufficient exercise, and limiting exposure to contagious dogs can also help reduce the risk of developing kennel cough or bronchitis flare-ups. Some veterinarians may prescribe antibiotics as a preventative measure in dogs prone to developing secondary infections from kennel cough as well.

While kennel cough vaccines cannot prevent all cases, they are still the best defense and are recommended by veterinarians for at-risk dogs. Avoiding irritants and allergens is also important to reduce bronchitis flareups. With proper prevention, most dogs can avoid developing serious cases of kennel cough or bronchitis.



Bronchitis can lead to pneumonia if left untreated, as the inflammation and mucus buildup in the airways allow bacteria to take hold more easily. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, “Most dogs recover fully when treated appropriately, although a small percentage develops chronic bronchitis.”

With prompt veterinary care and proper treatment, such as antibiotics, cough suppressants, and bronchodilators, the prognosis for dogs with bronchitis is generally good. However, relapses may occur if the underlying cause or triggers are not addressed.

For chronic or severe cases, dogs may require longer-term medication and treatment. But the Merck Veterinary Manual states that “Proper medical management can typically ameliorate clinical signs and stop or slow progression of bronchial damage.” So while chronic bronchitis cannot be cured, it can often be well-controlled to allow dogs to live comfortably.


In summary, there are some key differences between bronchitis and kennel cough in dogs. Bronchitis is a general inflammation of the airways, while kennel cough is an infectious disease caused by bacteria or viruses. Kennel cough tends to come on suddenly, while bronchitis develops more gradually. The cough from kennel cough is often harsh and dry, whereas bronchitis produces a wet, productive cough. However, they do share some similarities – both affect the airways and result in coughing. They also have overlapping causes, as viruses that lead to kennel cough can sometimes cause bronchitis.

Despite the similarities, it’s important to get a proper veterinary diagnosis, as the treatment options differ. While kennel cough often resolves on its own, bronchitis may require medications to open airways, loosen mucus, or fight infection. Prevention is also key – vaccination helps prevent kennel cough, and avoiding irritants can reduce bronchitis flare-ups. With proper care and treatment guided by a vet, the prognosis for both kennel cough and bronchitis is generally good.

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