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Kennel Cough in Dogs


Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is an upper respiratory infection in dogs. It is highly contagious and was named for the fact that it is commonly spread between shelter dogs or dogs living in tight quarters. Viral and bacterial causes of kennel cough are spread via airborne droplets from sneezing  and coughing. Symptoms typically begin several days after exposure, following an incubation period. In most animals, it will clear up on its own, but in puppies or immunocompromised dogs it can lead to secondary infection of the lower respiratory tract such as pneumonia. Because many cases of kennel cough are due to viral causes, it is not beneficial to put your dog on antibiotics. Instead, there are many natural remedies out there that can ease symptoms and speed recovery without conventional medications.



Kennel cough is highly contagious and spreads quickly throughout canine populations. The virus is carried in airborne droplets from infected dogs sneezing and coughing, and can continue to be spread for up to a week after recovery. Some common ways of contracting canine cough are as follows:

  • contact with infected dogs – places like dogs parks or kennels
  • contaminated surfaces or objects – such as veterinary hospitals, daycares, groomers
  • breathing infected air – meaning no matter how clean places such as veterinary hospitals or groomers are, the disease can still be in the air.


Kennel cough affects the lungs, trachea and larynx (voice box), and can express itself in the following ways:

  • harsh, dry cough
  • gagging
  • retching
  • sneezing or snorting
  • vomiting when light pressure is applied to the trachea
  • pnemonia or other secondary infections of the lower respiratory tract
  • no symptoms – some dogs can be asymptomatic, but still spread to other dogs

Symptoms generally last for a period of 10 days but can continue to be spread for over a week.


Kennel cough has a few different strains, some viral and some bacterial. While antibiotics can be helpful in treating the bacterial strains, they will be not effective for the viral strains. However, there are a number of holistic treatment options available to suppress symptoms and encourage a speedy recovery.

  • antibiotics – See your vet to confirm that your dog’s canine cough is in fact due to a bacterial infection before starting a round of antibiotics. Avoid the overuse of antibiotics when they are not necessary to prevent resistance.
  • Lung Care by NaturPet – contains expectorant and antispasmodic herbs that help to clear the lungs of congestion and suppress a dry cough. These herbs also reduce inflammation of the nasal passage and airways to soothe irritation.
  • unpasteurized raw honey – Helps soothe the irritated throat and also has antibacterial properties which may help against kennel cough strains caused by bacteria.
  • keep away from smoke – smoke can irritate the already inflamed respiratory tract of dogs with kennel cough so avoid smoking around your pet
  • use a harness – a harness prevents pressure being placed on the trachea, making walks more comfortable
  • create a stress free environment – just like humans, pets should have a relaxing, stress-free environment to promote speedy healing
  • use a humidifier – dry air can irritate the lungs, trachea and nasal passage. Use a humidifier to keep the air moist and comfortable.

** The suggestions given in this blog are based on the experience and knowledge of True Carnivores staff. Any of the information given does not replace the advice of a holistic veterinarian.**

Although kennel cough can be uncomfortable for your pet, it is a short-lived illness that generally passes within 10 days and there are many natural remedies you can use to speed healing and suppress symptoms. Be sure to first see your vet to rule out the possibility of kennel cough caused by bacteria (which may require antibiotics) or another illness with similar symptoms. For more information, please call, email or visit us in store today as we are always happy to help! If you’re not sure what kennel cough symptoms look or sound like, check out the video below:

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