Kennel Cough in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments

Your pup has been hanging out with all his doggy buddies and now has a nagging cough.

Oct 31, 2023By Kelley McFarland
kennel cough in dogs signs symptoms treatments

How do you know if it’s Kennel Cough, and what can you do to help your dog feel better? Kennel cough is the catch-all name for contagious viral or bacterial respiratory infections that quickly spread through air droplets or direct contact with contaminated surfaces. It can be contracted at boarding facilities, sharing a dog bowl, or even just close contact with a new doggy acquaintance.

While most dogs that come down with Kennel Cough recover easily without intervention, it is vital to know the signs and symptoms so you can seek help from a vet if needed.

Signs and Symptoms

dog blanket

As its name implies, Kennel Cough is a persistent cough in dogs. It is often described as a honking or gagging sound that is hard to miss. It may sound like your dog is trying to clear his throat. Like humans, you may notice more coughing during the night and morning when your dog is less active.

For most dogs who contract Kennel Cough, a cough is the only sign that they have acquired the illness. He will most likely retain his energy level and appetite. Others dogs may experience symptoms like the common cold in humans.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough may include one or all the following:

  • Hacking cough
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing

Head to the vet if your dog is showing any of these more concerning signs of illness:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Loss of Appetite

These could indicate a potentially dangerous secondary infection or pneumonia that needs proper medical care.


dog vet

If you suspect your dog may have Kennel Cough, keep him isolated from other dogs and ensure he gets plenty of rest. Hang up the leash and lay off the walks until he no longer has a cough. Once he’s ready to hit the pavement again, consider using a harness rather than hooking the leash on the collar. This will help to keep pressure off the throat, so you don’t aggravate the trachea.

A trip to the vet will rule out any more serious health concerns and give you peace of mind for an easy recovery.

Your vet may prescribe an antibiotic if they suspect a bacterial or secondary infection and to ward off any chances of pneumonia, especially if your dog is very young or immunocompromised. You may also ask your vet if they recommend any over-the-counter medications, like a children’s cough suppressant, to help lessen the coughing fits.

dog drinking

If your pup isn’t showing any troubling symptoms, there are easy at-home treatments for Kennel Cough. Many of the same measures that alleviate the symptoms of a cold in humans can also be utilized to comfort your dog while recovering.

Like treating Croup in children, run a hot shower in a small bathroom to allow your pup to breathe in the soothing steam. This quick trick offers immediate relief, and you should notice an improvement right away.

Offer lots of water to increase fluids while your dog is fighting the illness. You may even consider boosting his usual water dish with honey or bone broth to encourage maximum hydration.

Keep your dog away from environmental irritants, like smoke or harsh fumes that would trigger the cough. Postpone that backyard bonfire and give yourself an excuse not to clean the bathrooms for a few days in the name of clean air for your dog to breathe.



The most common source of Kennel Cough in dogs is Bordetella bronchiseptica, a bacterium responsible for upper respiratory infections that spread super quickly through dogs in group settings. The good news is that a vaccine greatly diminishes a dog’s risk of contracting and spreading this illness and decreases the potential of serious infection.

Vets recommend administering the vaccine every 6-12 months, depending on lifestyle. Keep in mind, boarding facilities generally require Bordetella boosters to be updated every six months, so definitely check requirements before dropping your pup off for a doggy vacation.

Available as an injection or an intranasal spray, your vet will recommend the best option for your dog.

happy dog

Like any vaccine, there are often side effects. Expect your dog to nap a little more on the days following the Bordetella vaccine. You may also notice swelling at the injection site and a runny nose if your dog had the nasal spray.

Once you realize your dog may have Kennel Cough, take a deep breath. Kennel Cough is a common, treatable illness that is very rarely fatal. With your comfort and support, your dog will be back to his happy, healthy self in no time.

Kelley McFarland
By Kelley McFarland

Kelley is a life-long animal lover who has experience caring for goats, alpacas, chickens, and dogs on a 3-acre hobby farm. Since moving to the Dallas suburbs, she enjoys exploring the neighborhood with Finn and Cody, her chocolate Labradoodle and spunky Boston Terrier Pug.