Kennel Cough is NOT a Veterinarian Emergency

Kennel Cough is caused by several infectious agents, many of which plague the dog simultaneously.

The most common is a bacteria called Bordetella Bronchiseptica (this is why you may also hear Kennel Cough be referred to as Bordetella). If the infection is caused solely by this bacterium, symptoms normally last for only 10 days. However, the dog continues to shed the disease for 6-14 weeks.

In the majority of cases, Kennel Cough is caused by a combination of both the Bordetella bacterium and highly infectious viruses such as Canine Distemper or Canine Influenza. The viruses not only weaken the dog’s immune system to make them more susceptible to Bordetella, but they also attack the cells in the respiratory tract. This puts the dog’s trachea (windpipe) and larynx (voicebox) in harm’s way.

It’s important to note that some dogs are carriers of this disease but show no symptoms themselves. However, whenever they come in contact with other dogs they are exposing them to Canine Cough, putting them at high risk for infection.

What is Kennel Cough?

How is Kennel Cough Transmitted?

Kennel Cough, an airborne disease, is primarily spread through the air. When an infected dog coughs, sneezes, barks, or even sheds dander – just once – he releases thousands of microscopic contaminants into the air. The aerosolized bacteria and viruses can remain viable (alive and able to infect) in the air for up to 2 weeks on tiny dust particles, traveling throughout the environment until inhaled by another host. Once ingested, these agents begin to wreak havoc within the upper respiratory tract.

Contact with contaminated objects.

If an infected dog drinks from a watering dish, pick up a toy or stick or hikes his leg on a post, and another dog comes in contact with these objects, he will most likely contract Kennel Cough. Bacterium like Bordetella can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours, ready and waiting to be transmitted to another unsuspecting host to continue the cycle of infection.

Direct contact with infected dogs.

Be careful whom your dog associates with and where he hangs out! Touching noses, sniffing butts, or just breathing the same air as an infected dog can cause your best friend to develop Kennel Cough. Dog daycare and dog boarding facilities, kennels, veterinary hospitals, dog grooming and other pet businesses where numerous dogs are coming and going or kept in close quarters, must take extra precautions to protect their facilities from the transmission of Kennel Cough. 

What are Kennel Cough Symptoms like?

Although Kennel Cough in dogs is not fatal, it does cause symptoms that make an infected dog quite miserable. The most common symptoms of Kennel Cough include:

1. A dry, hacking cough. This is a classic symptom. The cough is generally dry (although sometimes mucous can be expelled) and may be described as a “honking” noise. The cough is constant, persistent, and can be unsettling. Some dogs may experience a coughing fit every few minutes. Others may constantly be coughing as they are walking, lying down, or going about their daily activities. The cough is probably the most uncomfortable aspect for dogs (as can be seen and heard).

2. Fever. If the dog develops a fever, he probably has contracted a more severe form of the disease. Some dogs with Canine Cough appear perfectly normal and healthy, other than the fact that they are coughing all the time. But a low-grade fever indicates that his body is hard at work trying to fight off infection.

3. Lethargy. Not all dogs with this illness appear lethargic. Some do, while others appear perfectly normal. If the dog is lethargic, he will have decreased energy, poor appetite, lack of interest in activities he is usually excited about, minimal motivation, etc.


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Discharge. Nasal discharge and watery, runny eyes are a common symptom of Kennel Cough. In most cases, the discharge will be clear but sometimes it can be slightly cloudy or discolored, the latter of which is usually a sign of secondary infection.

While these Kennel Cough symptoms may not sound like much to be concerned about – after all, don’t we all have these symptoms when we’re suffering from a harmless little cold? 


What Kennel Cough sounds like

How long does Kennel Cough last?

Most dogs recover from Kennel Cough within 3-4 weeks. If a dog has a compromised immune system, is a young puppy or a senior, it may take up to 6 weeks for a complete recovery. However, the dog may still be a carrier of the disease for several weeks after he has recovered. The answer to exactly how long Kennel Cough lasts truly depends on the individual dog, but 3-6 weeks is a common time frame. .

How is Kennel Cough treated?

Mild symptoms of Kennel Cough (coughing, hacking, runny nose) can be treated at home. If your foster dog becomes worse please make sure to let your foster coordinator know by emailing

You can follow some of the more common home remedies listed below and make sure to keep your foster in a warm, quiet and comfortable place while he/she is recovering.

If you prefer not to give your pet antibiotics, there are options for the natural treatment of Kennel Cough.

Vitamin C will help strengthen your dog’s immune system, enabling him to combat Canine Kennel Cough faster and more effectively.

For Upper Respiratory issues*, you can provide Vitamin C as 125-500 mg twice daily for small dogs; 250-1,500 mg twice daily for medium dogs; 500-1,500 mg twice daily for large dogs. Whenever you feed your pet Vitamin C, make sure he drinks plenty of water to help the nutrients move through his system.

* Reference: Four Paws, Five Directions: A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dogs by Dr. Cheryl Schwartz, DVM.

Honey can be used to help soothe your pet’s throat. Kennel cough in dogs causes intense throat irritation. The constant coughing and hacking make the throat feel dry, cracked, swollen and extremely sore. Honey is packed with rich nutrients that will help your pet combat the disease and soothe his aching throat. A half to 1 teaspoon of honey several times a day should do the trick. 

Herbal teas can also be soothing to dogs suffering from kennel cough or canine cough. Teas made from licorice root are especially helpful. You can mix a small amount in your dog’s food.

When you see your dog suffering from kennel cough, you want to do something to help him feel more relaxed. In addition to providing your pet with treatment, there are a number of other things you can do to keep him comfortable, help speed the healing process and help him recover from kennel cough:

Use a humidifier. This can provide some relief for those irritated lungs. A steamy room, such as a shower room will also help clean your dog’s airways. Keep your dog away from smoke. If your dog is suffering from Canine Kennel Cough, keep him away from campfires and bonfires. You should also avoid smoking around these dogs. The smoke will irritate his lungs and could trigger a severe coughing fit.

Use a harness. When taking your dog out for walks, use a harness instead of a collar. Collars put extra stress on the neck, particularly if your dog tends to pull on the lead. This extra stress can irritate your dog’s trachea and make his coughing much worse.

Create a stress-free environment. If your dog is nervous, stressed or anxious he will not recover from Kennel Cough as quickly. The constant anxiety will break his immune system down, causing him to struggle even longer with the canine cough. You can make the environment stress-free by staying calm and relaxed yourself. Keep yelling, screaming and other noise to a minimum. Avoid doing things that cause your dog to become stressed. For example, if trimming your dog’s nails or cleaning his ears causes him anxiety, avoid doing any of these activities until your pet has fully recovered.


Green discharge? Time to call the Vet!