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How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

- 6 min read

sick dog

If your pup suddenly develops a consistent, forceful cough that sounds like they are choking on something, there’s a good chance they have caught kennel cough. This is more than likely the case if it occurs after they have interacted with dogs that are not from your household.

Kennel cough is a type of canine respiratory disease. It is typically characterized by the inflammation of the bronchioles and trachea, triggering a dry, hacking cough. In serious cases, it can result in pneumonia.

Fortunately, most kennel cough cases are not severe, with most dogs recovering all by themselves as long as you provide them with proper care. A typical kennel cough case can last between 2 and 4 weeks, depending on the strength of your dog’s immune system.

This article will take an in-depth look at this canine respiratory disease. Read on to learn more about kennel cough in dogs.

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What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is an all-encompassing term for the multitude of respiratory infections that cause coughs in dogs, just like how the common cold in humans is a symptom of just about any respiratory disease.

However, the most common cause for kennel cough is the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium. This is why this disease is often simply referred to as Bordetella. When this bacterium is the sole cause of this infection, the symptoms rarely last beyond 10 days.

However, most kennel cough cases result from a combination of the bacterium and an infectious virus. These viral agents are what compromise the dog’s immune system first, thus increasing your pooch’s susceptibility to Bordetella. Some of these viruses include the canine virus, canine herpes, canine adenovirus, canine distemper, and parainfluenza virus.

Once inside your dog’s body, the bacterium and viral agents work in unison to attack cells in the respiratory system. This weakens the mucus coating on your dog’s respiratory tract, putting their trachea (windpipe) and larynx (voice box) at risk of inflammation.

sick dog in vet
Image Credit: Mirko Sajkov, Pixabay

How Does a Dog Catch Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a contagious disease. It spreads between canines when a healthy dog inhales air contaminated with Bordetella and viruses from a sick dog. All the sick animal has to do is bark, sneeze, or cough for the contaminants to spread into the air around them.

Unfortunately, these contaminants can stay alive in the air or other surfaces for several days or weeks, putting every canine around at the risk of contracting kennel cough.

As you can imagine, the most likely place for your doggo to catch this disease is in areas where they interact with foreign dogs, such as shelters, boarding kennels, dog daycare, and dog parks.

This is why you are advised to get your pup a kennel cough vaccination, as it reduces their risk of contracting this infection when they interact with other dogs.

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Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Dogs

A persistent, forceful cough that almost sounds like a goose honk is the classic kennel cough symptom. When a runny nose and eye discharge accompany this cough, it is more than likely that you are dealing with kennel cough.

The good news is that most cases handle this infection well, retaining their appetite and energy levels.

But if your pooch displays those symptoms in addition to a loss of appetite, a decrease in energy levels, and fever, it means that they probably have a severe case of kennel cough. Therefore, take them to the vet immediately.

dog in the trunk of a truck
Image Credit: Jonathan Daniels, Unsplash

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?

Kennel cough can last 2–4 weeks. As mentioned, healthy dogs can handle this infection without a lot of problems. Again, just like the common cold, kennel cough symptoms are typically at their peak during the first 5 days, their severity dwindling over time.

However, the case is different for dogs with weaker immune systems, such as young pups, seniors, and sick dogs. Such dogs not only experience more severe symptoms but also take a longer time to recover.

The duration of this infection also depends on environmental factors. For example, airborne irritants such as smoke and a dry climate increase the severity of kennel cough symptoms.

Kennel Cough Treatment

Ensure that your pup gets lots of rest, regular baths, and proper nutrition. Additionally, try to keep your pooch in a calm state, as too much activity or overexcitement can irritate their airways, triggering intense coughing bouts.

However, moderate activity is recommended to facilitate faster recovery. When taking your dog out for a walk, use a harness instead of a leash. This is because leashes tend to put a lot of pressure on a dog’s windpipe, thereby causing further irritation.

dog looking at the camera
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

Some of the treatments to consider include:

Natural Treatments

For starters, ensure that your pooch is drinking lots of water, as this will help reduce the irritation on their throat. Additionally, increase the humidity levels in your home since a dry environment enhances the severity of kennel cough symptoms.

Also, increasing moisture levels in your dog’s body, as well as in the environment, goes a long way in alleviating kennel cough. You can try steaming the bathroom and keeping the dog inside for a while.

Home remedies for cough treatment in humans can also be effective in treating kennel cough in dogs. One of the most popular remedies involves the use of honey. Thanks to honey’s antimicrobial and antifungal properties, it can help reduce the inflammation in your pooch’s throat, thus offering relief. Consider giving them a spoonful of honey three times a day during the duration of the infection.


Seek medical treatment immediately in case your pup’s symptoms worsen. As mentioned, kennel cough symptoms do not take a toll on most dogs. This means that apart from a constant dry cough, your pooch should otherwise be okay. However, a lack of appetite and lethargy are good indicators that the infection is taking a toll on your dog.

The vet is likely to prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection and corticosteroids for reducing inflammation.

However, even though some over-the-counter pet cough syrups can help alleviate inflammation and irritation, confirm with your vet first before offering them to your pet.

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Preventing Kennel Cough in Dogs

A good offense is the best defense when it comes to your pup’s health. Therefore, be on the offensive against this disease by ensuring that your doggo’s diet is healthy and contains lots of vitamins and mineral supplements. Doing that will allow your dog to build a stronger immune system.

Additionally, talk to your vet about vaccinating your pup against kennel cough. While a vaccine might not always prevent your dog from contracting this infection, it is still beneficial, as it reduces the severity of the effects of the disease.

Most importantly, make sure that the places that you take your pup to interact with other dogs adhere to strict health standards. Moreover, they should insist on all dogs having up-to-date vaccinations.

Featured Image Credit: Igor Normann, Shutterstock

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