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What You Should Know About Kennel Cough

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Everything changes when your furry best friend gets sick. And illness always seems to strike at the worst possible time; one day, your dog is fine, and the next you find yourself overwhelmed with vet bills and medication.

We all worry about our Yorkie’s health from time to time, but how do you know the difference between a mild cough and something more concerning?

Kennel cough is one of the most common diseases a dog can get, and it can be especially worrisome in a Yorkshire Terrier. Not only is it highly contagious, but many dogs can carry the disease without ever showing symptoms. However, with timely treatment and prevention, your pup will be back to normal in no time.

Kennel cough, known by professionals as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a respiratory infection not too different from the common cold in humans.

It’s usually caused by a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica, or Bordetella for short. Other bacteria and viruses can contribute to the infection, but Bordetella infections make up most cases.

Bordetella spreads anywhere that dogs are in close quarters. According to the American Kennel Club, the bacteria spread “through airborne droplets, direct contact (e.g., touching noses), or contaminated surfaces (including water/food bowls).”

This makes it especially common at doggy daycares, boarding facilities and animal shelters.

OId dogs, young dogs and dogs that already have respiratory issues are the most susceptible to the bacteria. Yorkshire Terriers and other small dogs are already prone to trachea issues, putting them at a higher risk for infection. 

Yorkshire terrier puppy with pink bow laying in blue blanket

Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptoms are:

  • A strong and persistent “honking” cough
  • Sneezing
  • A runny nose
  • A small fever

More serious symptoms of the disease include low energy and a loss of appetite, but these are uncommon. Symptoms will present more severely than usual in puppies, old dogs and dogs with weak immune systems.

It’s important to not confuse a reverse sneeze with the cough associated with Bordetella. If your dog has a Bordetella infection, his/her cough will be heavy and followed by a sound like a goose’s honk. Reverse sneezing sounds more like snorting or even a person’s cough and is perfectly normal for Yorkies.

If your pup has been coughing for several days, or if the coughs are keeping your pet up at night, then you should schedule an appointment with your vet. Persistent coughing could be a sign of a collapsed trachea, a potentially fatal condition if left untreated. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Treatment Options

First of all, remember that the cough is highly contagious. Take your pup to the vet and separate him/her from your other dogs if you suspect an infection. 

Most Bordetella infections clear up on their own. Your vet will suggest lots of bedrest and snuggling for the patient. If your pup is having trouble getting well, or if symptoms are very severe, your vet may prescribe some antibiotics to help the infection run its course. Your pup may also be prescribed some cough medicine to keep them comfortable while they recover.

Keeping your pup in a humid area while they heal could also speed up recovery. Humidifiers are an affordable way to do this in drier parts of the country.

Walking your dog with a harness instead of a leash attached directly to their collar can also speed up recovery. Harnesses take the pressure off of the trachea and dramatically reduce coughing.

We believe that Yorkie owners should look into using a harness anyways; Yorkies have naturally thin bones that can accidentally be injured by leash/collar use.

Most of the time, your pet’s cough will clear up after about three weeks. Severe infections requiring antibiotics could take up to six weeks to clear up. If your pup is still sick after 3-6 weeks, schedule an appointment with your vet. An ongoing infection can progress to pneumonia pretty quickly when left unchecked.


sweet yorkie puppy laying on pink blanket

Bordetella infections can be prevented with a vaccine. The vaccine is available in three different forms: nasal, by injection or by mouth. Your pet may need a booster shot every six months to a year to keep them protected once they receive the vaccine.

The Bordetella vaccine is ideal for Yorkshire Terriers that frequently find themselves in social settings such as dog parks, doggy daycares, grooming facilities, and dog training classes.

Their small size and fragile respiratory systems leave Yorkies more vulnerable to infection than other breeds. In fact, many doggy daycares and spas require the vaccine before they will serve your pup. Always look up vaccine requirements before trying out a new establishment.

Vaccinations may not always prevent your pet from getting sick. Bordetella bacteria are only one of the causes of kennel cough. That being said, vaccinations give your pet the highest chance possible of avoiding infection.

If your pet cannot be vaccinated, take extra care at public parks and boarding facilities. Always make sure that your pup has access to clean water, and avoid wearing collars with leashes.

Be cautious for the first few weeks after adopting a new pet. Keep an eye out for any troubling symptoms, and make sure to go to every scheduled vet appointment. As we mentioned earlier, most infections clear up on their own after a few weeks, so your dog should be happy in no time.

Has your dog ever experienced Bordatella? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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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.


Thursday 4th of August 2022

Our 1 year old , male Yorkie , has experienced an illness a week ago. He was not interested in eating and unable to defficate . He spent two nights at the vet . he was given an IV to keep him from dehyradation He also was given barium , by mouth. He finally moved his bowels and discharged.His experience at the Vetwas stressful,as another dog barked 24/7, plus others including him barked continually as related to me by a technician.Of coarse, our Yorkie, Sir Bailey joined the chorus, willingly.

After11/2 days at home , he started small sneezes and a cough. We thought he was hoarse from barking for 48 hours. His bark now had a softer tone and de creased somewhat. The sneezing and coughing has not improved . Mornings and night seem to be troublesome for him. Sir Bailey is so sweet, quiet and loving ( lap boy) . He has an appointment with our Vet tomorrow as it is known Kennel Cough Is very common in our area of Nova Scotia , presently. Spoke to a vet at our facility today and does not think his symptoms are Kennel Cough. .?.? Could a young Yorkie taken outside to urinate , defficate every two hours for two days injure his trachea? The Vet uses a rope loop to guide them outside. Yes, he is an excessive puller on a leash.. We know that a halter should be used at all times. We left his halter at the Vet. Please advise , if anyone knows anything about Sir Bailey’s symptoms. PS ——We have air conditioning at home due to the hot temperatures and humidity. Could he have pneumonia? This little guy is the joy of our lives.He also has suffered from separation anxiety .after being at the Vet.That will take time . Tomorrow he will be in our arms at all times, at the Vet. Hope he does not have to be hospitalized again. If you are a Vet, technician or knowledgeable about young , small dog conditions ,your views would be appreciated. Thank you


Thursday 4th of August 2022

I'm not a vet tech but I do have a lot of experience with small dogs, particularly Yorkies. Your vet may prescribe something just in case it is kennel cough but it does sound like tracheal collapse. Yes, being on a rope lead every few hours, specially when he pulls against is enough to injure his trachea. It could also be reverse sneezing which sounds similar but the fact that it came on suddenly after a rope leash was used around his neck makes me think it's tracheal collapse. I have a post about it on my other site that you can check out here: It doesn't mean he will immediately have to have surgery or anything. He can live with it for years before it gets to that point, if it ever does. Let me know what your vet says.