Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough is a highly infectious disease.  It is caused by a mixture of bacteria/viruses all at the same time. It can be picked up from anywhere dogs congretate such as dog shows, training classes, grooming parlours and even vet surgeries and not merely in boarding/rescue kennels as the name would imply.  The disease is transmitted in infected coughed breath and via feeding utensils.  If you have more than one dog in your “pack”, remember to ensure the unaffected dogs have a different water bowl to drink from, just in case.
About 3-4 days after exposure, the dog will develop a cough. It is usually a dry, loud cough which is worse on excitement. The bouts of coughing may be quite extensive and occasionally cause the dog to retch clear fluid or foam and can make owners think the dog has something stuck in his throat. There may also be a mild nasal discharge but other than this, in MOST cases, the dog is well in himself otherwise – usually serious cases are restricted to very old, young or sick animals, or animals who suffer with respiratory or heart problems.
Generally diagnosis is fairly easy as, provided there is no reason to suspect distemper, most dogs will have been in contact with a coughing dog within the previous week or so. Gently touching the windpipe usually produces a bout of coughing.
It is unusual for the dog to require medication for this condition although it may take a few weeks for it to resolve although you can use cough syrup such as Benylin (check with your vet regarding the dosage as this will vary from breed to breed and the age/weight of the dog) or you could even try applying some Vicks Vapo Rub to a bandana for your dog to wear to help ease his chest. If coughing is severe and frequent, drugs to suppress the cough can be administered to make the dog more comfortable.  As pressure on the windpipe can trigger a bout of coughing, it is often a good idea to switch to a harness or head collar for walks until the dog has recovered.

Another more natural aid to consider is Coltsfoot which I am reliably informed works well for kennel cough.  Simply use the tincture and put a few drops in the dogs’ water bowls.


NB Please remember that this is a highly contagious disease and the animal should be kept away from other dogs until he is completely well.


  1. Reply

    Thanks, great article; having worked in rescue I’ve come across kennel cough which I find is more stressful on the people than on the dogs. I would just like to add however that my 11 yr old GSD had what I thought was kennel cough was actually the on-set of a heart condition, although the cough was slightly different i.e. from deeper in the chest, I was not sure about it and had it checked-out with my vet – good move.

    • Reply

      You’re quite right Ray. A cough is often one of the first early warning signs we get of a heart problem – and its not always something and people connect to it. Its important to try to look at the animal holistically and not just as a singular symptom ie a cough on its own may suggest Kennel Cough or a chest infection, a cough with a dog who tires easily, breaths heavily and perhaps has paler gums is another thing entirely. Well done you for taking the time to see your vet …. your GSD was very lucky to have you

  2. Reply

    Useful info and advice re KC – thank you. However, I’m finding it hard to get info on after care and level of isolation etc.
    Eller vaccinated but coughed a few times last week. She was very well in herself and no other signs etc. To just make sure all ok I took her to Vets. No temp, no chest noise, no cough on cough test. However, vet advised to be cautious and gave antibiotics etc. said would be ok to mix with other dogs in 2 wks time. Eller hasn’t coughed since day before going to vets. I’ve informed all neighbours with dogs, kept her away from other dogs out on walks etc and kept her on a short lead where I’m likely to meet others etc. HOWEVER ….. I’ve been called “irresponsible” by a person who is very experienced with dogs, for taking her out on walks etc. they say that the infection can hang around in the air where we have been and can still cause KC to spread. I’ve no wish to deliberately do the wrong thing and am confused as what to do as I had thought it needed nose to nose / salvia to spread? Thoughts appreciated!?

    • Reply

      Great question Karen!

      Most dogs recover from canine kennel cough within 3-4 weeks. However, Ella may still be a carrier of the disease several weeks after she has recovered. The answer to exactly how long kennel cough lasts truly depends on the individual dog, but 3-6 weeks is a common timeframe.

      The bacteria is passed either on the air (as it is an airborne disease), by contact with contaminated objects such as water bowls etc, or from direct contact with infected dogs.

      When a dog coughs, they release microscopic contaminates into the air which can survive on dust and dander and survive for hours until inhaled by another host. Therefore, if you walk her where other people walk their dogs and they come into contact which what she has sniffed/licked before the bacterium have died, they could theoretically be a potential hazard for other dogs.

      I would suggest perhaps keeping her isolated, at home, away from other dogs for two weeks and then walking her only where other dogs do not go (or at a time of day when few people would be walking there after you so the bacterium had time to die before anybody else came in to contact with it).

      Hope Ella is well as I know she is a real pocket rocket!!! Much love to you both

      • Reply

        Thank you Kerry. Will do my best to implement! Although there is lots of info re what KC looks like and is treated out there….there is very little re how to practically manage it!

        • Reply

          Bottom line is lots of isolation to prevent spread really. But hopefully the rest of the blog helps with direct treatment to make her comfortable. xx

  3. Reply

    I agree with all of the above Kerry. But mine had it just before Christmas. Multi dog household. So all came down with it. The little ones were fine but all 3 big ones (Danes) ended up at the vets. They had very high temperatures, lethargic and off food. Never have I seen dogs so unwell with kennel cough.

    • Reply

      Poor loves … and right over Christmas as well 🙁
      I hope they pick up and start feeling themselves very soon xx

  4. Reply
    This is worth a look
    Loads of positive studies in humans on this, I make my own elderberry syrup at this time of year (berries cooked to inactivate the cyanide in the seeds) and mix with honey.
    There are loads of references where it’s been used for kennel cough too.
    The bioflavinoids stop viruses from invading the cells.
    Boots sell elderberry syrup as a cold remedy for a tenner a small bottle!
    Oh and I make a more ‘medicinal’ version with brandy for cold nights

    • Reply

      Excellent top tip! Thank you so much for sharing Jo

      Kerry x

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