Where we are, we’ve been hearing increased reports of kennel cough in dogs lately. Whether this is because more dogs are getting together because Covid restrictions are lifting or not is unclear, but what is certain is that more and more people are looking for advice on what to do.

So, what is kennel cough? What causes it, and how can you tell if your dog has it? And if she does have it, what are the steps to getting rid of it? We’ve answered all of these questions to give you both peace of mind and to help your pup recover quickly!

What is Kennel Cough in Dogs?

Also known as canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD), bordetellosis, bordetella, or infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough in dogs is one of the world’s most widespread canine illnesses. It’s a condition wherein the trachea and bronchioles become inflamed, which leads to that hacking cough most of us at familiar with.

Kennel cough can be caused by multiple microorganisms, including Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, and mycoplasma, along with many other bacteria and viruses. As you can probably tell by the various names, kennel cough is highly contagious. A healthy dog can get kennel cough from an infected dog coughing or sneezing, or by sharing toys/food/water with an infected dog.

Often dogs get kennel cough from crowded areas like kennels, daycare facilities, or dog parks, where large groups play and run together. Poor airflow and warm, moist air can make any of these areas more problematic. That said, even just hanging out with a dog pal for a play date can cause it to spring up if one of the dogs is carrying the bacteria.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Dogs

Symptoms of kennel cough can typically appear within a week of exposure (usually 3-4 days) and continue for about 10 days. Even after symptoms disappear, your dog can shed the bacteria for up to 14 weeks – that’s why it’s so, so important to isolate your pup to avoid her spreading it to other dogs.

Kennel cough symptoms:

  • A persistent, dry, hacking cough
  • Retching or gagging after coughing
  • Coughing at night or when at rest

Less common, but more severe symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Labored breathing

Helping a Dog with Kennel Cough

Is it a major concern? In most cases, no. Most dogs just have that hacking cough, and while it sounds really bad, it isn’t a massive worry. Despite how extreme it may sound, a typical case of kennel cough is not life-threatening, and it tends to run its course in a few days to a week or so. In fact, for most cases, supportive care, rest, and nutritive support are all your dog will need for a full recovery.

Note: in rare cases, a dog can become very ill with pneumonia, so if you have concerns, contact your vet.

There are many things we can do to help support a dog with kennel cough, from changing up regular environmental factors to adding supportive remedies. Here’s what our experts recommend:

  1. Restrict activity. Rest is very important for a dog recovering from kennel cough. A long walk is not what she needs. Instead, try to limit activity to bathroom breaks (seriously, that’s it). Exercise increases breathing rate, which irritates the throat, leading to more coughing, and more irritation, and more coughing (you get the picture). If your dog is restless and bored, try some mental stimulation that doesn’t involve a ton of movement.
  2. No collar. Anything around your dog’s neck, even if it’s loose, will be irritating. Leave your dog’s collar off while she’s recovering, even at home.
  3. Elevate food and water bowls. Feed your dog from an elevated position to, again, help reduce any irritation.
  4. No dry food. Dry food – treats, kibble, dehydrated food, etc. – will all irritate the throat. Try to limit (or avoid totally) dry food. Things like bone broth are great for a dog with kennel cough. It’s soothing and really highly packed with nutrition to boost the immune system.
  5. Manuka honey. Many of us take honey when we have a cough, and it can be just as helpful for our dogs. It’s soothing and can help coat an inflamed throat. Add some to bone broth, or brew some chamomile tea and add the honey to it. We don’t recommend feeding it straight from the jar because it can be thick, and that thick consistency can actually increase – rather than reduce – coughing.
  6. Homeopathic phosphorus. This remedy is good for a dry, hacking cough, which makes it ideal for kennel cough in dogs. Add a few pellets to some water and give this to your dog. If you want more info on using homeopathic remedies, check out this post.
  7. Nutrition to boost immune health. Supplements like phytoplankton and colostrum are both good choices that are gentle yet effective immune system boosters.

While very common, kennel cough in dogs can often be compared to a common cold in humans. A little rest and some TLC should have your pup back to normal in just a few days!