How to Treat Kennel Cough: 13 Steps (with Pictures)

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How to Treat Kennel Cough: 13 Steps (with Pictures)
How to Treat Kennel Cough: 13 Steps (with Pictures)

Kennel cough is the colloquial term for an infection transmitted through the cough of infected dogs kept together in a kennel. More precisely, this cough (or infectious tracheobronchitis) is a general term for highly contagious respiratory problems in dogs. The most common agents that cause it are Parainfluenza virus, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Mycroplasma, Canine Adenovirus (types 1 and 2), Canine Reovirus (types 1, 2 and 3) and canine herpes virus.


Part 1 of 2: Recognizing Kennel Cough

Treat Kennel Cough Step 1

Step 1. Understand the risk factors

Kennel cough is extremely contagious and your dog may have been exposed after playing in a park or staying in a kennel.

Treat Kennel Cough Step 2

Step 2. Listen for the cough

An infected dog may develop a sudden cough that ranges from small snorts to deep choking coughs.

  • A deep cough is often confused with some choking. If possible, open the dog's mouth to see if something is stuck in his throat.
  • An alternative way to determine if there is something stuck in your dog's throat is to offer him something to eat. He won't be able to feed with something stuck in his throat, so if he swallows the food without difficulty, the cough is likely to be infectious.
Treat Kennel Cough Step 3

Step 3. Keep an eye out for gagging

Like humans, dogs also get sore throats when they're sick. This can lead to throat clearing, choking and vomiting.

  • This problem is so serious that some dogs vomit saliva or foam.
  • A dog vomiting from nausea (not from excessive coughing) will expel yellow bile or food from the stomach. This is usually a symptom of other problems.
Treat Kennel Cough Step 4

Step 4. Monitor the dog's energy

Some dogs with kennel cough show no signs of illness other than a nasty cough. Others may be sluggish, with little energy and little appetite.

It's a good idea to see a veterinarian if your dog is coughing. If he has no energy or has not eaten for 24 hours, take him to a clinic immediately

Part 2 of 2: Treating Kennel Cough

Treat Kennel Cough Step 5

Step 1. Isolate the dog as the cough is highly infectious

Every time a dog coughs, it releases aerosol particles that can spread the disease. If you believe one of your dogs has the infection, isolate it from other dogs immediately.

  • A dog with kennel cough should not go for a walk.
  • Other dogs living under the same roof are at risk. However, by the time symptoms become evident they are likely to have already been exposed, so separating them at this stage is of no benefit.
Treat Kennel Cough Step 6

Step 2. Take the dog to a veterinarian

Ideally, always take a coughing animal for a consultation as soon as possible. The veterinarian can check if the cough is infectious or has another cause, such as heart problems. He will also be able to inform if the dog needs treatment or not.

  • The veterinarian will do a thorough physical examination, including checking the temperature, analyzing the lymph nodes in the throat, looking for foreign objects in the mouth, and listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope.
  • In the absence of a heart murmur, and if kennel cough is strongly suspected, the veterinarian may suggest a "diagnosis by treatment" rather than a blood test or other costly test. If the dog does not respond to treatment as expected, further investigation needs to be conducted.
  • When scheduling the appointment, tell the receptionist that you suspect your dog has kennel cough. She may ask you to wait outside until the vet asks you to come in to reduce the risk of contaminating other patients in the waiting room.
Treat Kennel Cough Step 7

Step 3. If recommended, buy antibiotics

The veterinarian may or may not prescribe antibiotics for the dog. Administer them as instructed.

  • Antibiotics are not appropriate in all cases. As the infection can be viral, antibiotics won't help at all, as the dog's immune system needs to fight and kill the infection. There is no way to differentiate bacterial and viral infections with physical examination.
  • On the other hand, if your dog is unable to cope with the infection on its own, or if the veterinarian sees signs of fever or congestion, the dog may have a secondary bacterial infection as a result of the first one (which may be viral or bacterial). In these conditions, antibiotics can be prescribed.
Treat Kennel Cough Step 8

Step 4. Use steam

Run the hot shower for a few minutes and close the windows and doors. Sit with the dog in the humid atmosphere for five to ten minutes, keeping the dog away from hot water.

  • This can help loosen mucus trapped in the dog's chest, which can relieve the cough. The process can be repeated as many times as needed during the day.
  • Never leave your dog alone in the bathroom with running water, as he can get scalded.
Treat Kennel Cough Step 9

Step 5. Let the dog rest

Avoid stressful activities as much as possible.

Don't take him for a walk. Not only is this a risk of infection for other dogs, but the exertion (especially breathing in cold air) will irritate his airway and make his cough worse

Treat Kennel Cough Step 10

Step 6. Administer cough medicine

A cough performs the important function of removing phlegm from the chest and lungs. Stopping it is not a good idea, as the mucus will settle more in the lungs and make the dog's breathing worse. However, if he coughs a lot and this prevents him from breathing at night, you can give him some medication that will alleviate the problem.

  • A spoonful of children's Robitussin syrup is a great option. Give a teaspoon for every 9 kg of the dog.
  • Never give other cough and cold remedies to a dog without consulting the vet first. Administering the wrong dosage or some active ingredient can trigger serious health problems.
  • Ideally, you should give cough medicine no more than once a day.
Treat Kennel Cough Step 11

Step 7. If the dog's throat is sore, give a simple remedy to relieve the itching

Mix a tablespoon of honey, a teaspoon of lemon juice and warm water and give it to the dog.

  • This mixture can be administered once an hour if necessary.
  • Never give this to a dog with diabetes as honey can be harmful to it.
Treat Kennel Cough Step 12

Step 8. Improve the dog's immune system

To help fight the infection, ask your veterinarian if you can give the dog vitamin C pills ground with water, wild berry husk, peppermint, plain honey, or herb.

These treatments are not scientifically proven, but evidence suggests they may be beneficial

Treat Kennel Cough Step 13

Step 9. Prevent future infections with vaccines

If the dog is in an at-risk group (whether he stays in kennels, participates in shows, or mixes with many dogs in the park), consider a preventive vaccine.

  • The vaccine is effective against most causes of kennel cough and creates 12-month protection.
  • Kennel cough is not normally a fatal condition, but it is very unpleasant. This should make you consider vaccination, especially if your dog is elderly or has other health problems.


Kennel cough will occur within two to ten days of exposure and should last for about ten days without complications, or 14 to 20 days if there are multiple agents


  • Human remedies can have serious or lethal side effects in pets. Always consult your veterinarian before administering any medication to humans.
  • After recovery from the cough, the dog is unlikely to be infected again. The exposure and recovery principle is used in vaccination, so your dog is basically vaccinated against that particular disease. However, as there are many infectious agents that cause kennel cough, nothing can prevent its development caused by other agents.
  • If you have several dogs and one of them is infected, chances are they all are. Keep an eye out for the symptoms described above.
  • Rescued dogs have a high chance of developing a cough after adoption.

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