A Guide to Kennel Cough

One of the ongoing risks for our dogs is exposure to kennel cough.


This exposure is in part due to the fact that frequently when we train or show our dogs they are exposed to a number of other dogs. This exposure greatly enhances the opportunity for transmission of this respiratory disease.


What causes Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough can be caused by a number of viruses as well as bacteria. Frequently the disease is in fact caused by a canine combination of these two types of organisms.

Primary among the viruses are Canine adenovirus type 1 and 2, as well as Canine Parainfluenza virus.

Probably the single most important organism in causing kennel cough is a bacteria called Bordaltella Bronchiseptica.

A dog that has contracted one or more of these organisms will develop a very significant infection and inflammation of the trachea and the bronchi.


What are the symtoms?

The onset of symptoms can be in as little as four to five days or as long as two weeks after exposure, however, the broad majority of dogs will become symptomatic in seven to ten days post exposure.

The most common symptom is typically a deep honking type cough that develops abruptly.

In of many cases the cough is non-productive and it will appear that the dog is retching.

These dogs will usually have paroxysms of coughing followed by intervals of minimal coughing.

The coughing can be exacerbated by drinking water, activity increases, or when exposed to temperature differentials, (e.g, when going from a warm environment into a cool one or vice versa).

Most dogs with kennel cough will act normally except for the coughing and will have a normal appetite. Occasionally a mild to moderate temperature elevation will occur (up to 105° F) and there may be a nasal discharge as well as a decrease in appetite.



Treatment in most dogs is not necessary as the infection will subside on its own within seven to ten days. However, some dogs continue coughing for up to two to three weeks.

If the symptoms are severe it is appropriate to medicate.


Remedies to try at home

For boosting the immune system and fighting off infection

500 mg vitamin C – 3 times daily (250 mg for tiny dogs) (If you already supplement with vitamin C great! But this is in addition to the regular daily dose and is spaced out during the day.)

Echinacea or Goldenseal (give a few drops 3 times daily either directly into mouth or on food)

Colloidal silver (give just a drop or two, 3 times daily. May be mixed with food or put into drinking water)

For directly combating the kennel cough virus

Bryonia or Drosera (give 1-2 pellets 3 times daily, allow no food for 10 minutes before and after the dose.

Most health food stores sell homeopathic remedies In the 6X or 6C potency, which is fine for use. If you have a choice of Potencies, ask for 30C, which is a bit stronger.

Homeopathy works when the correct remedy is matched to the correct symptoms, regardless of the potency of the remedy.


For soothing throat irritation

Honey (about a teaspoon for a small to medium dog, a tablespoon for a larger dog 3 times a day)




How do I stop my other dogs from catching kennel cough?


Preventing other dogs from contracting this disease once it is present requires isolating the affected dog stringently.

The organisms that are responsible are spread primarily on small water droplets in the air, but direct contact between dogs and with areas that are contaminated by sputum can also serve as a source of contagion.

It is usually recommended to owners that an affected dog not be allowed to contact other dogs until there has been no coughing for at least seven to ten days.

To prevent transmission in kennel settings and at home you should isolate the affected dog and increase the ventilation within the kennel to the point that you are exchanging the air twelve to fifteen times per hour.

You should try to keep the humidity to less than fifty% if possible.

Kennels, crates and dishes should be cleaned vigorously with disinfectants and allowed to dry thoroughly before their next use. In short, increasing airflow and dryness will help a great deal with this problem.


Preventative Measures

Vaccines may help prevent kennel cough.

Some of these vaccines can be administered by injection and some can be given in the form of nasal drops.

The nasal vaccines do appear to create a higher level of protection.

While no vaccine is perfect, these vaccines do seem to be very effective at minimising kennel cough.


Medical Kit for Dogs


Final thoughts

All of us with dogs need to be conscious of how to prevent this disease and how to limit its transmission if we are to be fair to our own dogs as well as the other dogs and handlers that we come in contact with at shows.

The recommendations made in this article do not replace the advice of your veterinary professional. Always exercise your own judgement about whether something is right for your dog and consult your vet if you are unsure. Englishtoyterrier.co.uk accepts no liability for any situation that may occur as a result of following these recommendations.

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