How to treat kennel cough

  • Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) is a contagious, upper-respiratory disease.
  • It is transmitted by an airborne virus and often complicated by secondary bacterial infection.
  • Kennel cough occurs more commonly in puppies and young adult dogs.It is often caught at kennels or shelters where dogs are exposed to many other dogs.
  • Because the virus is airborne, normal cleaning and disinfecting of kennel surfaces cannot eliminate it.

Dogs with kennel cough are usually bright and alert and usually eat well; however, they have a dry, hacking cough or bouts of deep, harsh coughing often followed by gagging motions. The gagging sometimes produces foamy mucus. Most dogs with kennel cough do not have a fever.


  • If your dog has these symptoms, consult your veterinarian for treatment. Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent or cure a secondary infection.
  • Keep dogs in a relatively warm environment and make sure they are rested to help prevent the development of pneumonia.
  • Prevent the spread of this disease by keeping your dog away from other dogs.

Important to know

Not every cough is “kennel cough.” Some dogs bark almost continuously while sheltered, which can lead to a sore throat or many other upper-respiratory diseases.

If your dog has a fever, is less active than normal, has a decreased appetite, has discharge from the eyes or nose, has difficulty breathing, or is older than three years, a more serious problem may be present.

Home Remedies for Kennel Cough

Treating and curing this condition with home remedies for kennel cough is not really as hard as you think – you can even do this at home without spending too much money. It is pretty much like the common cold for humans so it is going to be easy for you to treat it. Here are a bunch of good home remedies for kennel cough:

  • Probiotics – these supplements and foods have great nutritional value not just for humans but also for our four-legged friends. Their task is to wipe out bad bacteria in your pet’s immune system, making him feel better and more alive. Probiotics for dogs can come in supplement form. Also, antibiotics can be recommended by your vet as a medical prescription. In this case of prescription, make sure to wait for at least 2 hours after giving the antibiotic, before giving the probiotic medicine to your dog, because antibiotics and probiotics are as we know at war with each other.
  • Honey – this is another dog-friendly home remedy for kennel cough. It gives your pet a relief from the nasal discharge that comes with the kennel cough, and is a very sweet treat for your dog to enjoy. One tablespoon of honey twice a day should work for your dog and heal his kennel cough. Also, be sure to feed him raw honey, not ones with preservatives and artificial flavorings.
  • Cough syrup – as with humans, dogs also have a decongestant cough syrup that can heal their kennel cough. Good products may include Nature’s Way products (Sambucus and Umcka Cold Care). Also, make sure that it has a good flavor that your dog will love, to make him heal faster. One teaspoon of syrup three times a day (depending on your dog’s size and age) will do.
  • Cinnamon – this is another good food supplement for your dog to be healed of kennel cough. You can sprinkle cinnamon over your dog’s food or daily meals. Cinnamon has antiviral properties which can heal your dog faster.
  • Coconut Oil – as coconut products are being the fad these days when it comes to home remedies and natural healing, coconut oil is no exception, even for dogs. As Kennel cough is caused by the Bordetella virus, coco oil has a good formula for exterminating it, because it is also antiviral like cinnamon. You can either pour it down his bowl of food or have him directly get spoonfuls of it. Your dog will love the fragrant smell and aroma of coco oil. These home remedies for kennel cough do work so give them a try when the need arises.
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home remedies for kennel cough

What are kennel cough symptoms?

The most common symptoms of kennel cough in dogs and cats are:

  1. A persistent dry cough—often sounds like “honking”
  2. Sneezing (especially in cats)
  3. Decreased appetite
  4. Gagging
  5. Coughing up mucus or white foam
  6. Fever
  7. Nasal discharge
  8. Watery eyes
  9. Lethargy (sleepiness, decreased energy)

If your pet is displaying any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian. The same bacteria that causes kennel cough can cause pneumonia and other serious complications. The more quickly you identify what’s going on, the better you can take care of your pet and get them back to health.

What Causes Bordetella in Dogs?

Canine infectious tracheobronchitis is most commonly caused by Bordetella. In warm moist conditions, such as droplets sneezed from an infected dog’s nose, this bacteria can survive for several days.

Thus, dogs become infected either by breathing in droplets of infected air (hence, ‘kennel cough as dogs often share the same airspace in a boarding kennel), by eating from infected bowls, or direct contact with a coughing dog.

The incubation period between exposure and showing kennel cough symptoms ranges from three days to two weeks. Happily, kennel cough is not passed from dogs to people. There is much debate about whether dogs can pass the infection to cats, but if this happens it is an unusual occurrence.

Infectious agents that cause symptoms of kennel cough include:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Canine adenovirus
  • Canine herpes virus
  • Canine corona virus
  • Canine influenza virus

Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Dogs

Kennel cough is an infection of the respiratory tract. It can cause soreness and inflammation along the whole length of the respiratory tract from the nose to the lungs.

An especially notable feature is that it inflames the lining of the windpipe. This means putting pressure on the trachea, such as pulling on a collar, triggers episodes of coughing. Even a sudden temperature change, going from a warm room out into cold air, can irritate the lining of the windpipe and cause coughing.

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Another of the clinical signs includes dogs that develop a runny nose and have a nasal discharge. This can be hard to spot as the dog usually licks it away.

Many dogs feel under the weather when suffering from kennel cough. As you’ll appreciate when you have flu or even a heavy cold, it can be difficult to carry on as normal. The implication for a dog is that they might not be interested in walks and prefer to stay home and sleep.

As previously mentioned, some dogs cough so hard they make themselves sick. Others can be feverish and will go off their food. However, all of these are general signs, so never assume this is the problem and always see a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

kennel cough sound as a black dog reverse sneezes

Is Your Dog Wheezing? What does Kennel Cough Sound Like?

If your dog is wheezing, this may well be a sign of a different condition such as canine asthma. The latter can be serious so don’t delay and seek an urgent appointment with a veterinarian.

The cough linked to infectious tracheobronchitis is described as a dry hacking cough. Indeed, in the most severe cases, it is likened to the sound of a goose honking. Some dogs start coughing and find it hard to stop, which then causes them to retch.

The cough can be alarming, especially if you aren’t sure of what’s causing it, hence the assumption many people make that the dog is choking.

Is Dog Reverse Sneezing Caused by Kennel Cough?

Yes and no.

Reverse sneezing is a separate condition in its own right. This is characterized by the dog making choking or heavy breathing sounds.

Reverse sneezing is usually caused by the dog’s anatomy and an overly long soft palate. Therefore, most often it is not related to kennel cough.

However, if the back of the dog’s throat is swollen because of infection, this narrows the airway. This can induce a form of reverse sneezing, which disappears once the dog’s kennel cough resolves.

Kennel Cough Treatment! Here’s What Your Vet will Do

Not all cases of kennel cough require treatment. If the veterinarian suspects a viral infection and the dog is otherwise well and still eating, they may not give antibiotics. However, if the cough keeps the dog awake at night, then the vet may prescribe cough suppressants at night to allow the dog to rest and recover their strength.

But, if the dog is feverish, off their food, or generally giving cause for concern, the vet may suggest a course of antibiotics. This is to fight any secondary infections which have taken advantage of the dog’s weakened state. This is important as a simple case of kennel cough can sometimes turn into nasty pneumonia.

An important consideration is isolating the dog. This is to avoid passing the infection onto others. You’ll also need to wash your hands thoroughly before touching other dogs, and ideally wear a change of clothing.

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kennel cough treatment with antibiotics next to dog

How long does Kennel Cough Last?

How long kennel cough lasts depends on which bug is causing it. Bordetella is a bacteria and can be killed by antibiotics. Therefore, in this case, a course of antibiotics usually clears up the problem with a few days.

However, antibiotics don’t kill viruses. So if the dog’s kennel cough is due to parainfluenza virus or herpes virus, then it’s up to the dog’s immune system to get rid of the infection. This can take weeks, sometimes even up to four weeks can be normal before a cough eventually goes.

An average length of time for kennel cough to hang around is two to four weeks. So batten down the hatches and be prepared to keep your dog away from doggy daycare for quite some time. Remember, your coughing dog could infect others, so the responsible thing is to keep them home.

Prevention is Key! Kennel Cough Vaccine

Happily, if your dog is elderly or in an at-risk group, a kennel cough vaccine available.

This is a slightly unusual vaccine in that it’s not an injectable vaccine. Instead, it consists of drops down the nose – otherwise known as an intranasal vaccine. The idea is that the vaccine provides local immunity in the respiratory system.

The vaccine protects for one year and needs to be repeated to give ongoing protection. It takes around two weeks from giving the vaccine to the dog being protected. So plan ahead if your dog is going into kennels.

However, be aware that the kennel cough vaccine doesn’t protect against every single infectious cause of a cough. Just as the flu vaccine in people protects against specific strains of virus, so the kennel cough vaccine only protects against the most common bacteria causing infectious coughs.

wheezing dog sounds as symptoms of kennel cough vaccine

7 Facts You Need to Know About this Transmissible Disease

There are many misunderstandings about kennel cough. Here are the facts in a nutshell:

  1.  Kennel cough in dogs is rarely dangerous when the dog is otherwise healthy. Most will make a full recovery, often without treatment
  2. It is very young puppies, elderly dogs, or those with another health problem that are at greatest risk of complications.
  3. Kennel cough is one of the most common causes of a cough in dogs.
  4. The bugs causing canine kennel cough can survive in the environment. This means dogs don’t need direct contact with each other to pick up the infection.
  5. Look for a boarding kennels that asks for their visitors to have the kennel cough vaccine. This is a sign they have the health of all their guests on their mind.
  6. Infected dogs pose a risk to other dogs until they have stopped coughing
  7. The kennel cough vaccine is usually not given at the same time as other vaccines. A return trip to the vet will be necessary.

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