If you have a furry family member, they will most likely need antibiotics at some point in their lifetime.

From bacterial infections to viruses, and even the odd cut and scrape, many conditions and ailments can be cured completely with the help of antibiotics prescribed by your vet.

But what about kennel cough antibiotics?

Mild kennel cough symptoms will generally fix themselves with a little care from a loving owner, rest, healthy nutrition, and ample hydration. However, sometimes more medicinal intervention is required for a full recovery.

Antibiotics can be beneficial as a form of kennel cough medicine as well as antitussives, anti-inflammatories, and bronchodilators.

We’ll be explaining what kennel cough antibiotics can be prescribed to your pet and answering common questions and concerns about this type of medication for your dog.

Does My Dog Need Antibiotics For Kennel Cough?

Does my dog need antibiotics for kennel cough?

Only a vet can tell you if your dog needs antibiotics for their case of kennel cough. However, we can offer some guidance around instances where antibiotics are necessary.

In the following scenarios:

  1. Particularly nasty cough
  2. Vomiting
  3. Symptoms worsening
  4. Symptoms persisting for more than two weeks
  5. Immunocompromised dog
A course of antibiotics may help to treat kennel cough more quickly and effectively than if you were to ‘wait it out’ and nurse your dog back to health.

It all depends on the background health of your dog and your ability to take care of them while they are sick.

What Antibiotics Treat Kennel cough?

When seeking antibiotics for kennel cough, be sure your vet knows of any other medications, vitamins, or supplements, your dog has been taking within the past few months.

Even if they haven’t been on them in a while, your vet must know everything to avoid prescribing antibiotics that may cause an adverse reaction to other medications and supplements.

The most commonly used antibiotics for kennel cough are:

  1. Doxycycline
  2. Baytril or Enrofloxacin
  3. Clavamox (amoxicillin & clavulanic acid)
  4. Trimethoprim-Sulfa
  5. Chloramphenicol

Let’s take a look at each one more closely.

Doxycycline

Doxycycline comes from the family of drugs, tetracycline. It is a broad-spectrum antibiotic meaning it can treat a wide range of bacterial infections. Doxycycline does not treat fungal or viral infections.

Doxycycline is given to dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, and reptiles in the form of either:

  • A tablet
  • A liquid
  • A capsule

If you are giving your pup or cat a tablet, provide them with food and water with or after administering. Never give a pet a dry tablet! This is even more important if your cat gets kennel cough.

If you are administering the liquid form, the measurement must be accurate. Take your time in examining the tiny numbers on the syringe. Remember, you are dealing with milligrams so you might need to squint!

Avoid iron-rich foods and dairy when taking doxycycline. These can lessen or completely mute the effects of the antibiotic.

Side effects of doxycycline:

  1. Sensitivity to sun
  2. Vomiting
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Lack of appetite

Your pet should not take doxycycline if they are allergic to tetracyclines (duh!) or if they are on:

  • Oral antacids
  • Iron supplements
  • Bismuth
  • Pectin
  • Kaolin
  • Eronfloxcin
  • Penicillins
  • Phenobarbital

Dosage for doxycycline is recommended at 5-10mg per day.

Enrofloxacin or Baytril

Enrofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone, another family of antibiotics, that treats specific infections in dogs, birds, small mammals, and reptiles. Baytril is the brand name and frankly much easier to say!

Baytril is available in tablet form only and works best on an empty stomach; however, if your dog experiences nausea or vomiting, go ahead and try giving it with food the next dose.

Do not crush tablets or accompany dairy for it will block or dull the effects.

Side effects of enrofloxacin

  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea

Baytril can cause abnormalities in the cartilage of the joints in growing dogs, so this may not be the right choice for your puppy with kennel cough.

Your pet should not take Baytril if they are on:

  • Antacids
  • Dairy
  • Other antibiotics
  • Doxorubicin
  • Corticosteroids
  • Quinidine
  • Sildenafil
  • Sucralfate
  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Levothyroxine

The dosage of Baytril anywhere from 5-20mg depending on the weight of the dog.

Clavamox (Amoxicillin & Cllavulanic Acid)

Clavamox is another popular antibiotic for treating kennel cough in cats and dogs. Clavamox is technically a combination of amoxicillin and clavulanic acid, hence the name, Clavamox. 

Though Clavamox is a synthetic, penicillin-like antibiotic penicillin alone will not treat bordetella bronchiseptica. The addition of clavulanic acid is essential in this antibiotic for kennel cough.

Clavamox typically comes in tablet form but may be available in liquid form in some instances. Clavamox tablets should be taken with food to avoid nausea.

Never give Clavamox to rodents, guinea pigs, hamsters, or rabbits. It can cause life-threatening diarrhea!

Side effects of Clavamox

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Your dog or cat should not take Clavamox if they are taking:

  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Pain medication
  • Blood thinners
  • Erythromycin
  • Other antibiotics
  • Aminoglycosides
  • Cephalosporins

A dog’s recommended dosage of Clavamox is 6.25 mg per pound while a cat’s dosage is 62.5 mg.

Trimethoprim-Sulfa

Trimethoprim- sulfa is used to treat cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, and small mammals. This antibiotic comes in tablet or liquid form. Trimethoprim-sulfa works best on an empty stomach, but again, if your pet seems ill after receiving the first dose, allow them to take it with food next time.

Trimethoprim-sulfa induces severe dry mouth so have lots of fresh, clean water available at all times.

Trimethoprim-sulfa should not be given to dogs or other animals with liver or kidney disease.

Side effects of trimethoprim-sulfa

  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Antibiotics to Treat Kennel Cough

Canine Antibiotics

We’ve created a handy table to show you what antibiotics cure kennel cough, what animals they can be given to, and any possible side effects.

AntibioticAvailable formsTreatsTreatment available for:Side effects
DoxycyclineTablet

Capsule

Liquid

Periodontal disease

Antiplasma

Heartworm

Bordetella bronchiseptica

Dogs

Cats

Small animals

Sensitivity to sun

Vomiting

Diarrhea

Lack of appetite

Baytril (Enrofloxacin)TabletBacterial infections like Bordetella bronchisepticaDogs

Small mammals

Birds

Reptiles

Vomiting

Lack of appetite

Diarrhea

ClavamoxTablet

Liquid in certain cases

Urinary tract infections

Bordetella bronchiseptica

Dogs

Cats

Nausea

Diarrhea

Vomiting

Trimethoprim-sulfaTablet

Liquid

Bladder infections

Prostate infections

Dogs

Cats

Birds

Small mammals

Reptiles

Decreased appetite

Vomiting

Diarrhea

What Is The Best Antibiotic For Kennel Cough?

Best Antibiotics for Kennel Cough

Knowing the best antibiotic for kennel cough for your dog depends on many factors, and the most effective antibiotics will vary between animals and the severity of their symptoms.

The most popular antibiotics for kennel cough treatment are:

  1. Clavamox
  2. Doxycycline
  3. Baytril

While doxycycline could be the best choice for old Hank, new puppy Fido needs to take Clavamox due to his developing bones and cartilage.

How Do Antibiotics Help Cure Kennel Cough?

Antibiotics for kennel cough work the same as an antibiotic used to treat an infection. The antibiotic kills the infection and stops the bordetella bacteria from reproducing or duplicating cells.

When this starts happening, you’ll notice your dog’s symptoms gradually improve.

Thankfully, the kennel cough bacteria are very susceptible to bordetella antibiotics such as doxycycline. 

According to some vets, treating kennel cough with antibiotics is a much more effective method of treatment because it prevents your pet from developing further infections and damage to their respiratory tract.

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last With Antibiotics?

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last with Antibiotics?

Antibiotics will start working within one to two hours of administering, but the effects will take longer to be seen.

It may take three to four days to notice that your dog is feeling better, and symptoms are subsiding.

With the help of antibiotics, your dog’s kennel cough should clear within 1 or 2 weeks.

How Long Is My Dog Contagious After Taking Antibiotics?

Unfortunately, regardless of the antibiotic you choose, your furry bud will have to continue to quarantine for up to 14 days.

This means that you should keep them away from all other dogs and cats. Regardless of whether they are contagious, it’s always best to keep your dog at home if they are feeling unwell. Let them take their time to get better, with plenty of rest, food, water, and cuddles.

Kennel Cough Antibiotics Not Working? 4 Reasons Why

Canine Antibiotics not Working

Perhaps you’ve started treating your dog’s kennel cough with antibiotics from the vet, but their symptoms don’t seem to be improving.

This is a particularly frustrating situation that could occur for the following reasons:

  1. Dairy consumption
  2. Iron supplementation
  3. Resistance or sensitivity to the antibiotic
  4. They spit it out when you weren’t looking!

We’ve addressed what this means below:

ReasonWhat to do
Dairy consumptionDairy can block the effects of antibiotics in dogs, so make sure they’re not eating any milk or cheese.
Iron supplementationIron supplements and iron-rich foods should be avoided when administering antibiotics as they can halt their effects. Stick to the dog food or the meal plan advised by your vet.
Antibiotic resistance or sensitivityYour pet might be having an adverse reaction to the kennel cough antibiotic. Consult with your vet.
Spitting out the tabletsIf you’re administering antibiotics via tablet, it’s easy for your dog to spit these out when you’re not looking! Talk to your vet for an effective method.

Risks Of Using Antibiotics To Treat Kennel Cough

As with all medications for your pets, antibiotics for kennel cough can sometimes lead to adverse reactions.

Pay attention to the following:

  • Use caution when treating a dog or cat with liver or kidney issues with antibiotics.
  • In some cases, more severe side effects can occur. Keep a close eye on your pet, especially during the first few days on antibiotics.

Here are a few more do’s and don’ts when it comes to antibiotics for dogs and cats for kennel cough.

Do:Don’t
Notice if antibiotics are recommended to be taken with or without food.Ever give a pill or tablet dry
Have fresh water available at all times and be sure your pet is drinking adequately.Give antibiotics with dairy or foods high in iron for it may block or dampen effects.
Measure liquid doses very carefully for they are the easiest to overdo.Ignore abnormal symptoms like uncoordinated walking, seizures, muscle spasms, swelling of the face etc. Call the vet!
Use with caution if the animal has a history of liver or kidney disease.Give to pregnant or nursing animals without consulting a vet. Most antibiotics come through the mother in breast milk.
Spoil and cuddle your pet while they are not feeling well (while isolated from other pets and immunocompromised humans who can get kennel cough too)Ever give your pet two doses of antibiotics at once!

Conclusion

Kennel cough can be very frightening and nerve-racking for pet owners. Now that you know that kennel cough is very treatable, and often clears up on its own, you can feel more confident that your furry friend is going to be okay!

Talk to your vet about kennel cough antibiotics and which one is best suited to your pet.