Kennel Cough Symptoms and Treatment

Information on kennel cough in cats and dogs.

Select a Topic

  1. What is Kennel Cough?
  2. What Causes Kennel Cough?
  3. Diagnosing Kennel Cough
  4. Help for Kennel Cough
  5. More Information on Kennel Cough

What is Kennel Cough?

This highly contagious respiratory infection affects dogs and cats. It tends to be more common in dogs, but can occur in cats and kittens. Symptoms are characterized by a telltale dry, hacking noise that sounds like your dog wants to clear his throat.

Although kennel cough is very infectious and easily transmitted from dog to dog, most of the time symptoms will resolve on their own. It can be more serious in puppies under six months old and immunocompromised dogs.

Your pet’s overall health and well-being remain the same as he recovers. Your dog will still feel active and have a normal appetite. However, he will cough a lot. Symptoms generally lasts from 7-21 days. Severe episodes are rare, but if left untreated can lead to pneumonia and other respiratory complications.

Symptoms of kennel cough include:

  • Honking, coarse, dry coughing
  • Large amount of phlegm
  • Retching or gagging
  • Rhinitis
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low fever

Although this infection does not typically cross over to humans, there may be a risk to immunocompromised young children and adults. If you’re concerned about this possibility, speak with your doctor.

What Causes Kennel Cough?

This respiratory infection is usually caused by the bacterial-viral combination of bordetella bronchiseptica and canine influenza. Other less common agents such as adenovirus types 1 and 2 and mycoplasma may also cause the condition.

Infection is transmitted when dogs are in close contact with each other in an enclosed environment. Kennels, dog shows or animal shelters are prime targets. It can be passed through direct contact or by sharing food bowls, water bowls, toys or litter boxes.

When an infected dog barks, the bacteria become airborne. If these bacteria are inhaled by another dog, they can develop the illness.

Diagnosing Kennel Cough

Diagnosis is based on your pet’s symptoms and history. Your vet will ask for a thorough history of your dog’s health and about when symptoms began.

The vet may order blood tests, complete blood cell count, X-rays, fecal exam and urinalysis to make an accurate diagnosis.

Although most cases resolve on their own, a correct diagnosis is important to rule out other illnesses or upper respiratory infections.

If your dog develops suspicious symptoms, contact your vet.

Help for Kennel Cough

Symptoms usually resolve on their own within one to two weeks, without treatment.

Vaccinations are available, although they do not guarantee complete immunity or treat active infections. These immunizations include adenovirus type 1 and 2, parainfluenza and bordetella bronchiseptica. They are given via injection or nasal drops.

The nasal vaccine tends to produce a higher level of immunity than the injectable forms. Vaccination is typically yearly, although your vet may suggest an extra booster if your dog is high risk or frequently at dog training, doggie day care, boarding kennels or parks.

Kennel cough treatment includes suppressant medication for mild symptoms. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics for severe, persistent symptoms that occur with a fever. This can help prevent secondary infection such as pneumonia.

More Information on Kennel Cough

Preventive measures to help your pet stay healthy:
  • Feed an all-natural, high quality diet to strengthen his immune system.
  • Always have fresh, clean water available for your pet.
  • Get regular exercise by going for walks or playing fetch.
  • Ensure that your pet is vaccinated before attending shows, training, or boarding at a kennel.
  • Keep kennels and living areas clean, dry, and disinfected.
  • Make sure living areas are well-ventilated and that there is ample air flowing through.
  • If your pet has symptoms, do not allow her to have contact with other animals.
  • Avoid sharing food and water bowls or toys with other animals.
  • Incorporate immune-boosting supplements as part of the daily diet.

Natural Remedy for Kennel Cough

KC-Defense™ Granules for Kennel Cough Symptoms is a homeopathic medicine that helps relieve symptoms of acute kennel cough and strengthens the immune system.

The content provided is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If your pet has a health condition, please consult a medical/veterinary professional and do not use this information to self-diagnose or self-treat.
  1. “Kennel Cough in Dogs.” PetMD. Accessed January 2, 2020.
  2. “Kennel Cough in Dogs – Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention.” American Kennel Club. Accessed January 2, 2020.   
  3. “Kennel Cough in Dogs.” Fetch by WebMD. Accessed January 2, 2020.
  4. MacPete, Rugh. “Kennel Cough: Signs and Symptoms.” Accessed January 2, 2020.
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