Kennel Cough Treatment

Everything you need to know about kennel cough treatment including antibiotics, how to treat kennel cough at home, and what happens if it goes untreated.

    So your best bud is coughing, and you’re wondering what to do next. Should you call the vet or wait to see how things go? Is it allergies or something worse?

    First things first, call the vet and discuss current symptoms to formulate a plan of attack. Read below to match symptoms with the severity level.

    Kennel Cough or Tracheobronchitis is an all-encompassing term for upper respiratory illness in dogs and is the leading reason for coughing.

    Kennel cough is super contagious and can jump from one dog to another in a hurry, so it is easily spread in kennels and animal shelters.

    These places usually lack proper ventilation, which allows the bacteria to fester and infect.

    Though this virus is most often shared in places where dogs are in a contained area together, a dog’s cough can be attributed to several things.

    We’ll walk you through what causes kennel cough and what kennel cough treatments are best for your canine companion.

    Kennel Cough Treatment Infographic

    Quickly view the most common treatments for kennel cough in the infographic below.

    Kennel Cough Treatment Infographic
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    How to Get Rid of Kennel Cough

    There are several ways of treating a dog that has contracted kennel cough. While some pet owners prefer prescribed medication for quick relief, others prefer to let the cough run its course and give their dogs natural home remedies to treat the condition.

    The kennel cough treatments listed below are what you can generally expect to be recommended by a veterinarian. It’s important to remember that what works for one dog may not work for another, so it’s important to bring your dog in to get properly assessed. Animal doctors may recommend different types of treatment depending on a variety of factors such as the dog’s size, age, and condition.

    Kennel cough typically only lasts for 1-2 weeks, however, if your dog has been coughing for longer than 3-4 weeks it is highly recommended that you bring it into an animal hospital for x-rays to be on the safe side. Constant hacking is tough on the dog’s throat, especially for puppies, and can cause damage to their trachea if it goes on for too long.

    Does Kennel Cough Need To Be Treated?

    Does Kennel Cough Need to be Treated?Yes. Though Kennel Cough can go away on its own, any symptom that lasts more than 24-48 hours should be brought to your vet’s attention sooner rather than later.

    Often vet’s offices are already booked and can’t get you in that very day, so don’t wait until it gets worse.

    At the very least, please consult your vet about your pet’s symptoms and let them help you make a plan. 

    Even if the symptoms of your pet’s Kennel Cough are not terrible yet, they still need loving care and coddling.

    What would you do for yourself (or have your partner do for you) if you had a seasonal cold besides whine and avoid doing chores for the next few days?

    Even if you didn’t go to the doctor for antibiotics, you would stay home, avoid strenuous activity, rest, sleep, drink tea, watch your favorite rom-com, and eat bonbons. It’s not that different for your dog.

    Okay, so please don’t give them bonbons, but a nice protein-filled treat would be cool! The rest is the same. Your dog needs to sleep in cozy surroundings while staying hydrated and eating healthy. Natural home remedies for Kennel Cough like licorice root tea can be helpful for your dog’s congestion.

    What If Kennel Cough Is Left Untreated?

    Worst case scenario – dogs can die from kennel cough.

    This is highly unlikely, but it can happen in extreme cases. Immunocompromised dogs and puppies with underdeveloped immune systems are more vulnerable to Kennel cough. A bacterial invasion in the lungs can lead to Pneumonia and, sometimes, death.

    Since the Bordetella bacteria causing Kennel Cough grabs onto one of its virus buddies to bring symptoms to fruition, things can get dicey quickly.

    The incubation period for Kennel cough is 2-14 days, but if your dog coughs persistently for even one day, don’t put off the conversation with your vet as it’s not worth the risk.

    You know by now that Kennel Cough is uber contagious, right? So if your dog is left untreated, then it will most likely infect other dogs. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

    Mild Kennel Cough Treatment

    Mild Kennel Cough Treatment Solutions

    1. Rest
    2. Hydration
    3. Cough syrup
    4. Cough suppressants
    5. Nutrition and healthy eating
    6. Isolation
    7. Vaccine


    Dog RestingJust as we do, pets need sleep to recuperate and recharge, especially when their immune system is in distress. Regardless of the ailment, rest is always the first and most apparent treatment. Try to remove any distractions (lights, loud noises, etc.) that might prevent your best buddy from having a full nap. The more comfortable you can make their napping area, the more rest they’ll get.


    Dog HydrationAnother obvious treatment for illness and a general rule in healthy living; stay hydrated. Not only does the body need lots of water to heal itself, but dehydration can impede healing with side effects like dizziness and fatigue. Always make sure to keep water easily accessible, the water vessel cleaned frequently, and the water fresh for those extra picky pets.

    Cough Syrup

    Several cough syrup varieties are marketed to dogs and their parents online but ask your vet what they suggest before buying some knock-off on Amazon.

    Dextromethorphan is a cough medicine that can effectively treat coughing in dogs, but only when following your veterinarian’s instructions.

    Though Dextromethorphan is available over the counter, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to give it to them whenever willy nilly. Be sure to consult a licensed veterinarian on guidelines to use this method of treatment.

    Cough Suppressants

    Your vet may prescribe over-the-counter cough suppressants like Robitussin. Even if they do, they will have you abide by specific guidelines and dosing instructions.

    You can also ask your vet to call in a prescription so that you can be sure the dosing and medication are just what the doctor ordered.

    Nutrition and Healthy Eating

    This isn’t the time to get your fur baby a burger at the nearest fast-food restaurant. Eating healthy and balanced is key to building the immune system for recovery from Kennel Cough.

    Try to seek out food rich in vitamins and nutrients. If you like to feed your dog people food, keep it unprocessed and pretty bland.

    Always consult your veterinarian when changing your dog’s diet.


    Isolation is a must for Kennel Cough recovery across the board. Whether your dog is suffering from a mild or severe case, the bacteria is extremely contagious and spreads to other animals.

    Yes, your cats can get it too!

    That’s right; anyone within spitting distance is at risk so quarantine your fuzzy friend in a comfy room (they’d probably prefer your bed) with their favorite disinfected toy and fresh food and water.

    Kennel Cough Vaccine

    While some vets may recommend the kennel cough vaccine (Bordetella) in the form of a shot or inhalant, it’s important to know that it does not work 100% of the time. In some cases, this vaccination has even been known to trigger the cough. This type of kennel cough treatment is recommended for those that spend a lot of time around other dogs, such as show dogs, or dogs who go to doggy daycare or pubic parks often.

    Mild Kennel Cough Symptoms

    Mild symptoms of Kennel Cough include:

    • A mild to moderate, hacking cough
    • Sneezing
    • Snorting
    • Discharge of the eyes
    • Nasal secretions
    • Difficulty breathing

    If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, it may have Kennel Cough. 

    You can talk to your vet about the treatment options above.

    Severe Kennel Cough Treatment

    Severe Kennel Cough TreatmentSupportive and medical care are necessary if your dog has a severe case of Kennel Cough. All sick animals require rest, good nutrition, ultra hydration, and isolation from other animals.

    1. Antibiotics
    2. Hospitalization
    3. Intravenous fluids
    4. Anti-inflammatory drugs and bronchodilators
    5. Oxygen therapy


    A severe cough will warrant a prescription of antibiotics. The vet might take some tests, such as blood tests, cultures, and lung x-rays, before treating your pet.

    The top antibiotics for kennel cough in dogs are:

    • Doxycycline
    • Baytril
    • Clavamox
    • Trimethoprim-sulfa

    Antibiotics work by killing the bacteria causing the infection or slowing its growth. They interfere with the bacteria’s reproduction, attack the bacteria’s wall, and block protein production.

    Antibiotics will begin to work immediately, but it can take a few days for the symptoms to start to subside.

    Dogs will still be contagious for two weeks after they begin antibiotic treatments, so don’t slack on the isolation. 


    If you’ve noticed that your dog hasn’t been eating or is picking at their food, if they seem super tired or comatose, they may need to be hospitalized to get back to themselves again.

    I know this can be stressful for both of you but try to keep it together for the fur kids. The majority of pets need hospitalization at some point, so don’t beat yourself up. Let’s get that pup feeling better!

    While your animal is in the hospital, it will receive around-the-clock monitoring and care. Many treatments are done in 24 hours or less.

    Your fur baby will probably receive intravenous fluids, a special diet, and medication while under the care of veterinarians and technicians.

    Before you know it, you will receive a phone call informing you that your pet is being discharged, and you can finally breathe again.

    Intravenous Fluids

    You’ve been trying to feed them healthy foods and keep them hydrated, but it just isn’t working. This wretched cough won’t go away. Your baby still has a fever, and things aren’t looking any better than yesterday. They may need to stay in the hospital to receive intravenous fluids.

    Hydration is such an essential part of the healing process. It affects blood circulation and blood volume because, like humans, dogs are almost 80% water.

    Your pooch may not be drinking as much water as usual because they’re not as active as usual. However, if your dog isn’t drinking much or at all, that is a definite cause for concern.

    Anti-inflammatory drugs

    Sometimes anti-inflammatories are needed to control the swelling of the airway. They do this by stopping the release of inflammatory chemicals in the body.

    Glucocorticoids can provide rapid relief in a severe allergic reaction. However, these tend to suppress the immune system, so they are only used in extreme situations where the dog would be unable to breathe otherwise.

    Oxygen Therapy

     A dog with severe kennel cough may need oxygen therapy to supplement the air they breathe with extra O2. The body tissue of a healing dog needs to be oxygenated. If they have difficulty breathing or very labored breaths, the tissues may not be getting enough oxygen to aid in a dog’s recovery.

    There are a few ways to administer oxygen therapy in dogs

    • Hyperbaric oxygen chambers
    • Oxygen mask

    Oxygen Therapy for DogsSource

    Hyperbaric oxygen chambers 

    Hyperbaric oxygen chambers, sometimes called an oxygen tent, are a thing of the future, and the future is now. This type of oxygen therapy is commonly used in humans, and now it’s available for dogs.

    A dog is shut in an airtight chamber to help dissolve the oxygen in the blood. The chamber is filled with high levels of oxygen to reach and revitalize the tissues. The chamber is pressurized and will continue to increase in pressure while the dog is inside. The whole thing takes one to two hours.

    Oxygen masks

    These are just as simple as they sound. There is a mask fashioned over the dog’s muzzle for direct oxygen intake.

    Severe Kennel Cough Symptoms

    Severe Kennel Cough symptoms include:

    • A persistent, honking cough
    • Loss of appetite
    • Lethargy
    • Trachea sensitivity
    • Fever
    Hopefully, it hasn’t gotten this far, but medical intervention is necessary if your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms. Contact your vet immediately.

    Kennel Cough Treatment For Puppies

    Kennel Cough Treatment for PuppiesPuppies need extra special attention when it comes to illness. Because their immune systems are not fully developed, they are more vulnerable to viruses and bacteria like Bordetella, the kennel cough bacteria.

    Puppies can be even more likely to catch kennel cough not only because they are immunocompromised but also because they were just with a bunch of other dogs before their forever person adopted them.

    More than likely, the puppy came from an animal shelter, a kennel, a breeder, which are all typical places to pick up Tracheobronchitis.

    Treatments for kennel cough in puppies include all of the things mentioned above, but attention must be paid to how many different drugs your puppies are ingesting. The veterinarian is a must in this scenario. Puppies can easily get sick, and they can progress in an unfavorable direction quickly.

    1. Isolation
    2. Rest
    3. Nutrition
    4. Antibiotics
    5. Anti-inflammatories and bronchodilators
    6. Hospitalization
    7. Intravenous fluids
    8. Anti-inflammatory drugs and bronchodilators
    9. Oxygen therapy
    10. Expectorants

    How To Treat Kennel Cough At Home

    Treating Kennel Cough at HomeNow you’re wondering, What can I do for my dog’s kennel cough at home

    On top of the obvious things like isolation, rest, hydration, and a healthy diet, you can do a few things at home to help. Please consult your vet whenever you suspect something is off with your puppy or dog. They won’t mind the interruption; that’s what they are there for.

    1. Chicken soup
    2. Extra virgin coconut oil
    3. Raw honey
    4. Steam therapy
    5. Humidifier
    6. Essential oils
    7. Take the collar off!

    Chicken soup

    Chicken soup boosts the immune system and can help relieve a sore throat. Plus, you can eat it too!

    Extra virgin coconut oil

    Coconut oil is a natural anti-microbial and can help quiet a dog’s cough, and they love the stuff! TRy giving your dog a teaspoon per every 10 pounds.

    Raw honey

    Make sure you get the good stuff. None of that junk shipped from overseas, just pure, homegrown honey.

    Honey has antibacterial properties and aids in soothing a sore throat as well as killing bacteria. You can give your dog a teaspoon to a tablespoon, depending on their size. It’s your choice if it’s diluted in warm water or right off of the spoon.

    Steam therapy

    Steam up the bathroom and go in there with your dog. Make it as comfy as possible for them. They will probably be a little nervous that you are taking them in there to bathe.

    Lucky for them, you are making a DIY steam bath to relieve their congestion and help them breathe easier.


    The use of a humidifier will moisten the air that your dog is breathing in and help relieve an irritated or sore throat.

    You can put a humidifier close to where your dog is resting and let it soothe their dry nose and throat.

    Take the collar off!!

    If your canine bestie is suffering from a sore throat, cough, or upper respiratory issue, a collar is not advantageous. The main problem with collars is that they pull on them while on a leash; this causes more irritation and can cause tracheal collapse, especially in small dogs.

    We need collars to keep the tags on our dogs, but you can either loosen the collar if you want to keep it on or take it off when they’re inside. You can also put your tags on the fancy new harness you buy for the little muffin.

    Essential Oils

    Let’s talk about essential oils for a minute. They can be so helpful for relieving congestion and soothing a stressed-out sick dog. Always consult your vet before introducing a new remedy to your dog.

    The most commonly used essential oils for dogs are:

    1. Chamomile
    2. Tea Tree
    3. Lavender
    4. Eucalyptus
    5. Oregano Oil
    Essential OilsUses & Benefits
    ChamomileCalms and soothes
    OreganoAntifungal, antibacterial, & antiviral – fights bacteria and boosts the immune system
    EucalyptusAntiseptic – relieves congestion
    Tea TreeAntifungal – eases congestion
    LavenderSoothes and calms

    Did you know tea tree oil kills the fungi that cause ringworm? Pretty cool, eh?

    Keep in mind that essential oils are strong. Your dog’s nose is about 50,000 times stronger than yours, so can you imagine how strong that tea tree can smell to them. I know it smells nice but don’t overdo it.

    Don’t ever let animals ingest essential oils. All essential oils are toxic to dogs if ingested. I know this probably goes without saying but you never know. Keep the essential oils up and out of sight if you have a cute little troublemaker.

    Cautionary symptoms of ingesting essential oils in dogs:

    • Difficulty walking or stumbling
    • Vomiting at the smell
    • Drooling
    • Weakness
    • Pawing mouth and face
    • Fatigue
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Redness, burning, or irritation of lips, skin, gums, or tongue


    All essential oils are toxic to cats so if you have them, don’t bother with this method. In case you’re curious, here is a list of essential oils that are toxic to cats:

    • Bergamot
    • Eucalyptus
    • Clove
    • Cinnamon
    • European Pennyroyal
    • Rose
    • Rosemary
    • Tea Tree
    • Thyme
    • Lavender
    • Lemongrass
    • Lemon, Lime & Orange
    • Wintergreen, peppermint, spearmint & mint
    • Ylang-ylang
    • Sandalwood

    I guess what I’m saying is to be careful with essential oils and always run your plan of action by your veterinarian.

    The thing about garlic

    Garlic is on many lists as a home remedy for dogs, but there are arguments against the supposed cure.

    Garlic is known to be harmful to dogs in larger amounts, and it’s still up in the air whether it’s worth the risk or not. Like every other remedy, ask your vet, but the evidence isn’t sure enough for me, personally.


    Look at you educating yourself on your fuzzy friend’s health; good for you! Keep being a great animal parent and loving that perfect sweetie. We’ll see you soon!