Evidence Based

Kennel Cough – Symptoms, Remedies and Prevention

Written by: Kristina Lalovic
Think your dog has Kennel Cough? Read on to find out the symptoms that indicate it, as well as the best remedies that help heal Kennel Cough faster.

Is your dog coughing a lot, but he still seems quite energetic and high spirited? What could be causing this constant, dry cough?

The most common reason behind a dry cough in dogs is Kennel Cough. It is a respiratory disease that is easily spread among dogs. So if your dog has been to a place where a large group of dogs gather to run or play, it may be that he caught the infection from an infected dog. The thing is that the infected dog that transmitted the disease doesn’t have to be sick at all. He could have already recovered from Kennel Cough but is still a carrier of the bacteria that cause it.

If you’re suspecting your dog has it, discover the symptoms of Kennel Cough as well as the best remedies that can help your dog heal faster. Let’s start by describing what this disease is and what are the causes behind it.

What Is Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough is one of the most contagious respiratory diseases among canines. It is also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis and it’s most common in places where a lot of dogs live together. But, if your dog hasn’t been to a daycare facility he can still catch Kennel Cough. The pathogens that cause this illness cause inflammation of the upper airway of a dog’s respiratory tract that leads to a dry cough.

Your dog is more likely to catch Kennel Cough during summer, but it doesn’t mean that your dog has no risk of getting it during other seasons as well. However, this infection is not a fatal disease and can be treated effectively. Kennel Cough can potentially be very dangerous to puppies younger than 6 months.

What Are The Causes Of Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough, just like regular human colds, can be caused by multiple things. However, the most common one is a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough is also called Bordetella). But, it was found that most dogs that catch Bordetella are also infected with a virus. (1) This is because viruses lower a dog’s immune system and therefore make a better environment for bacterias to grow. So, if your pup happens to have a canine herpesvirus, canine distemper or a parainfluenza virus, chances are he will get Bordetella or Kennel Cough as well.

How Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough?

daycare dog

But how do dogs get this bacteria that leads to this respiratory infection? Well, Kennel Cough is an airborne disease, which basically means they are primarily spread through the air. So any contact with an infected object, or simply inhaled infected particles, increase the chance that your dog will catch this disease.

Let’s describe two most common ways a dog can get infected by Kennel cough.

Through Contact With An Infected Dog

If you feel like the environment your dog hangs out isn’t quite safe and hygienic then better look for other alternatives. Places such as daycare facilities or dog parks can contain plenty of bacteria and viruses, including the Bordetella. If your dog sniffs an infected dog or even breathes the same air, he might be at risk of getting Kennel Cough. This respiratory disease is highly contagious, which means every dog infected should be immediately isolated.

Kennel Cough is easy to spread and catch in kennels and shelters.

Through Contact With A Contaminated Object

If an infected dog coughs, sneezes or even sheds, he will release thousands of contaminated particles into the air. When inhaled by another dog, these particles may lead to Kennel Cough as well as other diseases caused by viruses. But, these particles that contain Bordetella can survive in dust or on other objects in your home for long periods of time. Which basically means that if your dog picks up the same toy or drinks from the same bowl that an infected dog touched, he will most likely catch Kennel Cough.

But there are also other factors that make getting Kennel Cough more probable, and that should be avoided or controlled :

  • Exposure to places with a lot of dogs and poor ventilated conditions
  • Cold temperatures
  • Too much dust or cigarette smoke
  • Stress caused by traveling

What Are The Symptoms Of Kennel Cough?

As the name says, the main symptom of kennel cough is, well, a persistent cough. It sounds quite different than those little cough-like sounds dogs make, which are actually reverse sneezes that can indicate a slight irritation of the throat.

But how do you know your dog has it? Well, it is more probable that your dog caught Kennel Cough if he’s showing some or all of these symptoms.

1. A Dry, Persistent Cough

This cough won’t be like others, and will most likely produce a rather “honking” noise. It is a dry type of cough that can sometimes produce mucous too. This cough might be very draining for your dog as it is very constant and can make your dog coughing every few minutes.

2. Lethargy

If your dog is barely moving and doesn’t get excited about going out for a walk or playing with his favorite toy, it might mean that your pup is not feeling well. However, if presented alone, lethargy could mean a lot of other things. In combination with a constant cough, it might indicate Kennel Cough too.

3. Eye Discharge

Like in humans, you can notice by your dog’s eyes if he’s not feeling his best. Not only will he look at you in a different way, but he might also have eye discharge when infected by Kennel Cough.

4. Runny Nose

Nose reaction is very common in respiratory diseases, and so it is true for Kennel Cough as well. If you notice that your dog has more nose discharge than usual, he might have caught an infection.

5. Low Fever

If your dog has all of the symptoms named above plus he’s also having a low fever, his body might be fighting against a more severe infection of Kennel Cough.

But, if your dog’s cough seems a little different than the one we described, then something else could be causing it. That’s why it is highly advisable to bring your pup to the vet when your dog is coughing. Coughing could be caused by other health issues too, among which is also the heartworm disease that is very dangerous to canines. (2)

However, your dog could have Kennel Cough and show only one of the symptoms (most likely the cough). He might act completely normally without any sight of lethargy or a drop in energy. Other dogs, on the other hand, could have all symptoms and even lose appetite.

Pay attention to how your dog is behaving and you will soon understand if he’s feeling right or just pretending everything’s ok.

How Is Kennel Cough Diagnosed?

Unluckily, there are no specific tests for kennel cough, so a diagnosis has to be made through a process of exclusion. All the other causes of dry cough will be examined in order to rule out the ones that aren’t affecting your dog.

Your vet might also ask you about your dog’s history. What could be a good indication of kennel cough is if your dog just got out of a shelter, pet store, or even if your pup simply visited a groomer, training classes or dog parks.

How Do You Treat Kennel Cough?

If your four-legged friend has Kennel Cough, you shouldn’t worry. Most cases of kennel cough are healed within a week or two of rest.

However, if you have a young puppy, kennel cough might be more dangerous and require professional treatment. Older dogs can also take a bit longer to cure themselves from this respiratory disease.

But what should you do if your pup has it?

Your vet will probably prescribe you antibiotics that will attack Bordetella bacteria as well as other cough medicines that will soothe the throat irritation and speed up the recovery time. This will prevent your dog in catching secondary infections.

You should use harnesses rather than a collar when walking your dog infected with Kennel cough, as the pulling on the neck area might aggravate the cough.

If you have more pets, than make sure your infected dog is isolated from any animal company. Other dogs might easily catch Kennel Cough from an infected dog, so better avoid parks with a lot of dogs. And avoid little puppies at all costs!

Make sure your dog’s Kennel Cough is cured because if left untreated it could lead to more serious conditions such as pneumonia.

Natural Remedies For Kennel Cough

However, some people prefer not giving conventional medications to their dogs and seek for alternative treatments to Kennel Cough. Although your pup will probably heal from it after a week or two of rest, you might make his recovery much easier by giving him some of these remedies that will soothe the cough. These remedies include some nutritional boosts but also herbal teas that are found to work greatly in removing symptoms of various diseases.(3)

Here are some things that you can give to your dog that will help in curing Kennel Cough faster.

1. Honey

Most dogs can safely have a teaspoon of honey with no side effects. Honey is very effective in killing bacteria and boosting health. (4) Not only will it work as a great antiviral agent, but honey will also decrease the inflammation caused by Kennel Cough.

If you’re making your dog a herbal tea to soothe his throat, feel free to add a teaspoon of honey. However, if your dog has diabetes, better avoid feeding him with honey.

2. Coconut Oil

It’s common knowledge that coconut oil is great in killing harmful bacteria and viruses thanks to its healthy fatty acids. Coconut oil will help in fighting just any infection and is in fact very good for preventing infections and diseases.

However, start with smaller amounts and than increase them gradually. Feed your dog about 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of weight per day in several doses. Most pups easily adjust to the coconut addition to their diet.

3. Echinacea Powder

According to various studies, this powerful powder will help your dog heal from a respiratory disease, and it will also boost his immune system.(5, 6) Echinacea proved to be very successful in treating respiratory tract infections and is a great way to treat Kennel Cough.

4. Licorice Tea

According to herbalist Juliette de Bairacli Levy, Licorice is one of the most effective herbs for fighting the cough. Make a strong infusion by combining 1 tablespoon of licorice with 2 cups of cold water. Bring it to a boil, then remove from heat and let it cool until lukewarm. Add a teaspoon of honey and give 2 tablespoons to your dog before each meal.

5. Sage Leaves Tea

In her book “The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat”, Levy recommends sage leaves tea as the best cough remedy tea. The instructions for making the steeped tea are the same as the ones of the licorice tea.

6. Bioprin – Chinese blend of 21 herbs

Marina Zacharias, a holistic health consultant, suggests that Bioprin is the best formula for fighting just any type of viral infection. She claims that it also supports the overall immune system and acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.

Can Kennel Cough Be Prevented?

There are different ways of preventing Kennel Cough from vaccination to proper maintenance of your dog’s health through supplements and healthy routines.

A vaccine against the Bordetella bacterium is the most common method of prevention. It is available in oral, intranasal, and injectable forms and is usually given in two doses followed by a booster vaccine every six months to a year. (7)

Dogs that are often boarded or exposed to places with a large group of dogs such as doggie daycare or canine sports require more frequent vaccinations.

However, Kennel Cough can also be caused by other agents such as bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica, canine parainfluenza virus, canine respiratory coronavirus, or canine adenovirus. (8)This means that the vaccine protects only from Bordetella, and therefore doesn’t fully prevent the development of Kennel Cough.

Anyway, the best defense for any infection is a strong immune system. And this is done by ensuring your dog gets the best nutrition through high-quality food, clear water, and supplements, as well as fair amounts of exercise.


What Else Could Be Causing Dog Coughing?

Coughing could be caused by multiple conditions. Dog can cough from other bacterial infections such as pneumonia, virus infections such as flu, diseases like larynx or esophagus, but it could also be a sign of a heartworm disease. If you feel your dog is very weak and doesn’t look himself, go to your vet ASAP, as something more complicated could be inducing the coughing.

Is Kennel Cough The Same as Dog Flu?

No. Canine flu also causes coughing but the cough is soft and moist, rather than dry. The flu usually comes with a high fever and nasal discharge, which are not common symptoms of Kennel Cough.

Is Kennel Cough In Dogs Fatal?

No. It can only be a severe illness for puppies younger than 6 months because their immune system is not strong enough yet. That’s why it is always highly advisable to keep young puppies isolated from other dogs in order to avoid catching any damaging infections.

How Long Does It Take To Get Over Kennel Cough?

Most dogs will recover after 3 to 4 weeks of rest and treatment. Older dogs might need some more time, as their metabolism is slower, so if you don’t see improvement after 6 weeks, you should start worrying. This is also held true for dogs with a weak immune system or a very young puppy. However, after recovering from Kennel Cough your dog may still carry the disease for several weeks, so don’t socialize him with other dogs right away. (9)

Can Kennel Cough Heal On Its Own?

Yes. Most dogs can heal on their own in home conditions with a little help of their owners. Make sure to keep your dog’s environment clean, and use air humidifiers to soothe his throat. But if your dog is already suffering from a health condition, or is very old or young, professional assistance may be needed. However, before deciding your dog will heal on its own, go to your vet to rule out other serious reasons that could be causing your dog to cough.

Is Kennel Cough Contagious To Humans?

No. Although this respiratory disease is highly contagious among dogs, humans can’t catch it. So, do not worry, as your health or health of your family members won’t be compromised when having a Kennel Cough infected pup at home.