What Is the Fastest Way to Cure Kennel Cough?

Medically Reviewed on 12/10/2021
home remedies kennel cough
You can hasten your dog’s recovery from kennel cough by making sure the animal gets plenty of rest, takes enough fluids, and eats a nutritious diet.

The treatment for kennel cough is individualized to the particular dog. In most cases, the dog takes about one to three weeks to fully recover.

You can hasten the recovery by making sure your dog gets plenty of rest, takes enough fluids, and has a nutritious diet. Your vet is the best person to assess your dog for the severity of the infection and prescribe proper treatment.

6 remedial tips to hasten your dog’s recovery

  1. Honey in warm water: Just like in humans, honey in water can soothe your dog's throat and minimize cough. About one-half to one tablespoon of honey mixed with lukewarm water in a bowl can be offered up to three times a day.
  2. Use a humidifier: Placing a small humidifier near your dog’s resting spot will moisten the surrounding air that your dog breathes, making their breathing easier. Prefer using a cold mist humidifier to avoid any accidental injury that can occur with a warm mist humidifier.
  3. Foods: Offer small amounts of bland but tempting foods, such as boiled chicken or hamburger, or cooked rice every two hours. The pup or dog that eats well recovers faster.
  4. Hydration: Make sure your pup has enough water to drink. You may even feed him chicken broth or meat broth to up their fluid intake. This helps flush out toxins from their body.
  5. Avoid smoke and fumes: Keep the pup or the dog away from smoke and other irritants. If you are a smoker, make sure your smoke far away from your dog. While cleaning the house, put your dog in a separate room until you are done. Many households cleaners contain harsh chemicals or bleaches that may worsen your dog's throat irritation.
  6. Avoid using collars for the duration of infection: Straining against the collars may aggravate the coughing fits, so try using a harness instead of a collar for time being.

Antibiotic therapy is advised only in severe cases, where the dog has breathing difficulties, the X-rays show pneumonia or the dog has other comorbid conditions.

  • Your vet may prescribe either a course of oral amoxicillin, clavulanic acid, or doxycycline as initial therapy or an intravenous dose of ampicillin, with gentamicin, amikacin, or enrofloxacin for at least 10 days in severe cases.
  • Nebulization (a vaporized form of medication administered in saline to loosen the chest congestion), cough suppressants (such as butorphanol), low dose dextromethorphan, or hydrocodone could be administered in some dogs. In some cases, the bronchodilators, such as terbutaline, may be administered orally to ease breathing.

If your dog is very sick and unable to ingest food and the X-rays show significant pneumonia, hospitalization is recommended. Most dogs, however, get better with outpatient treatment and tender love and care (TLC) from the owners.

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough, canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD), or infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious, upper-respiratory disease seen in dogs and puppies. The dogs who stay in kennels or visit dog parks, grooming centers, or shelters are prone to this infection, hence the name kennel cough.

The infection may be either caused by an airborne virus (parainfluenza virus, canine adenovirus) or bacteria (Bordetella bronchiseptica or Mycoplasma). Sometimes, there may be another infection that occurs in addition to the initial infection.

In most healthy adult dogs, the condition is usually not life-threatening. Your dog may experience a bad hacking cough, a runny nose, and look unwell. In puppies, older dogs, pregnant dogs, and dogs with comorbidities (such as diabetes), kennel cough may develop into pneumonia, which is a fairly serious condition.

Dogs with kennel cough have a dry, hacking cough or bouts of deep, harsh cough. Some dogs may have gagging that produces foamy mucus. Most dogs do not have a fever.

It is important to remember that not every cough is “kennel cough.” Sometimes, your dog barks almost continuously while sheltered. This may cause sore throat and symptoms similar to the kennel cough.

The following symptoms may mimic kennel cough, but could be precursors of other serious illnesses:

  • A fever
  • Appears dull or is less active
  • Does not eat well
  • Appears to have discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Has difficulty breathing
These symptoms may point to heart conditions in dogs, asthma, collapsing trachea, cancer, or even SARS-CoV-2 infection.


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What human cough syrup is safe for dogs?

Many human medications are contraindicated in dogs. This includes many pediatric prescriptions (kid’s medications) as well.

It is advisable to take your puppy or dog to the vet for proper treatment. Human cough medications may contain compounds, such as acetaminophen, which are toxic to dogs. Because many veterinary drugs are prescribed off-label (use that lacks enough evidence), the directions to give these to your dog may significantly differ from those written on the label. Hence, it is important to discuss the doses and other instructions with your vet.

Though many vets prescribe low-dose dextromethorphan syrup, your pet may be allergic to it, so always observe your dog or puppy for a few hours after the medication is administered. Dextromethorphan should be used cautiously in pets with liver disease, skin allergies (atopy), or wet coughs.

What is the kennel cough vaccine?

The kennel cough vaccination (Bordetella vaccine) is recommended in all dogs who come in contact with other dogs. Ideally, it should be given at least three weeks before the dog will be potentially in contact with other dogs.

The vaccine may be administered intranasally, orally, or injected under the dog’s skin.

  • The intranasal (nose spray) type Bordetella vaccine is probably the most commonly used form. It has the most rapid onset of immunity, possibly within 48 to 72 hours.
  • The oral Bordetella vaccine is less effective compared to the intranasal type. It is a good option for dogs who cannot tolerate intranasal vaccines.
  • The injectable Bordetella vaccine is administered in aggressive or extremely nervous dogs who may bite while administration of the intranasal vaccine.

Many dog centers require you to produce proof of this vaccination before they admit your dog for stay.

If you are a new dog owner, you may wonder how frequently this vaccine needs to be given. The table below has some information you should know.

Table. Information on Bortadella vaccine
Age Vaccine type First dose Booster dose
Newborn or very young puppies Intranasal Bordetella vaccine Six to eight weeks (or sooner if required) Four weeks later or between the ages of 10 and 12 weeks
Puppies at 16 weeks or more Intranasal or injectable Only one dose is needed because they have a robust immune system Only if asked by kennel authorities
Adult dogs that stay in a kennel or are in contact with other dogs Intranasal or Injectable vaccine One vaccine per year

Booster every six months in case of 

  • Old dogs
  • Pregnant dogs
  • Dogs with poor immunity
An adult dog that primarily stays at home Intranasal vaccine One vaccine per year Not required

The kennel cough vaccine is not advised if your dog:

  • Is currently taking a course of antibiotics (because this can make the vaccine ineffective)
  • Is on immunosuppressant medicines (e.g., high dose steroids or cyclosporine)
  • Previously had a severe reaction to a vaccination.

The vaccine is not 100 percent effective. However, it helps prevent severe complications of the disease.

Medically Reviewed on 12/10/2021
Image Source: iStock Images

American Humane. Kennel Cough. https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/kennel-cough/

Bledsoe S. Kennel Cough in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatments. PetMD. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/best-ways-treat-kennel-cough-dogs

Science Direct. Kennel Cough. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/kennel-cough

Priory Vets. What is the kennel cough vaccination? Do all dogs need it? https://www.prioryvets.ie/blog/what-is-the-kennel-cough-vaccination-do-all-dogs-need-it

EVH Emergency Vet Hospital. Kennel cough. https://emergencyvethospital.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/EVH-Infectious-Canine-Tracheobronchitis-Handout-2019-220519-web.pdf