Home Treatments for Kennel Cough

Mychelle Blake
Co-author Kelly Roper
Vet using stethoscope on a dog

A case of kennel cough produces symptoms that are similar to a common cold. Get tips on what you can do to make your dog more comfortable and to ease the symptoms homeopathically until the illnesses passes.

Recognizing Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is basically an upper respiratory infection. The condition is caused by several airborne viruses, so it's not surprising that so many dogs will experience a round of it at some point in their lives. The typical case of simple kennel cough lasts anywhere from one to three weeks and usually requires little to no medical treatment. Symptoms of kennel cough can include:

  • Intermittent coughing that increases at night
  • Coughing triggered by exercise
  • Coughing is dry and does not produce mucus or phlegm
  • Kennel cough has a distinct "honking", wheezing sound
  • Runny eyes

If the kennel cough worsens and you see your dog vomiting mucous at the end of a coughing spasm and a nasal discharge, this most likely indicates he's developed pneumonia.

Kennel Cough in Puppy and Adult Dogs

While kennel cough is fairly common among all ages of dog and generally isn't serious, cases of kennel cough in very young puppies and senior dogs with compromised immune systems can be more serious as their bodies are not strong enough to fight off the infection. The result is you may find it taking longer than average for the disease to run its course and may linger for up to six weeks.

Natural Home Treatments

While there are home treatments you can use to make your dog feel better, it's always a smart idea to check with your veterinarian first. A simple case of coughing that seems like kennel cough can sometimes be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.

Conventional Home Treatments

Just as when children have a cold, some pet parents prefer to let a simple case of kennel cough run its course while they provide comfort and relief for their dog at home. Basic home treatment for kennel cough includes:

  • Keeping your dog warm, quiet, and free from drafts
  • Removing your dog's collar to prevent excessive coughing stimulation
  • Encouraging your dog to drink plenty of fresh water
  • Providing wet food just in case your dog's throat is sore and irritated

Shower Sauna

Steam treatments can be a valuable aid in the fight against a respiratory infection. You can create your own temporary sauna by running your shower on its hottest setting and letting steam build up with the bathroom door closed. Once there is good water vapor built up in the room, bring your dog in and let him breathe in the steam for a good twenty to thirty minutes. The steam actually helps the bronchial tubes open up as it simultaneously loosens the phlegm clogging your dog's airways. As a result, your dog is able to bring up more phlegm when he coughs, and phlegm removal is essential to helping him feel better.

Be sure to towel off your dog very well to prevent him from feeling damp and chilled after the treatment.

Home Vaporizing Treatment

You can provide additional relief for your pet via steam by giving him a vaporizing treatment three times a day. Run a hot shower in your bathroom and let the steam build up with the door closed. Take your dog into the bathroom and let him breathe in the steam for 20 minutes. The vapor will help open his bronchial tubes, which in turn makes his coughs more productive. This will enable your dog to rid himself of more of the phlegm clogging his airways.

Dog wrapped in towel by shower

Soothing Botanicals

There are a number of homeopathic remedies that can be used as a home treatment for kennel cough. These products are designed to support your dog's immune system and enable it to fight off the infection on its own. Although each product has its own unique formula, there are a few botanical ingredients that appear time and again on various labels. These include:

  • Plantago lanceolata: Plantago is a well known herbal remedy in the homeopathic community. It's an all around cough treatment that acts as an expectorant to help your dog cough up the mucous, as well as an anti-catarrhal to prevent mucous production. This in turn eases inflammation of the bronchial tubes and provides your dog a measure of relief.
  • Echinacea purpurea: Echinacea is regarded as an immune system booster that fortifies the body's fight against cold and flu. Furthermore, it can provide additional support to the immune system after an infection until your dog is 100% recovered.
  • Bryonia C6: Bryonia works double duty to moisturize irritated mucous membranes as well as clear mucous out of the system.
  • Carbo vegetabilis: This is a good choice for dogs that have a harder time at night when it's difficult to sleep, and you may notice that breathing becomes more distressed.
  • Drosera rotundifolia: This remedy is use for coughing spasms and is an excellent first choice for kennel cough. It can help reduce the pain from the spasms and it's also helpful for dogs with increased coughing at night.

Homeopathic Remedies

One of the easiest ways to provide your dog with home treatment is to purchase an over-the-counter homeopathic kennel cough medicine that's already formulated. Respiratory remedies that can also provide some relief for kennel cough symptoms include:

  • KC Defense - This remedy is designed to relieve a hacking cough and clear congestion for easier breathing.
  • Primalix KC - This is an herbal extract formula for kennel cough.
  • Respo-K - This formula is designed to bring relief for respiratory infections, open up airways to make breathing easier and boost the immune system.
  • Newtom Homeopathics Cough-Asthma - This remedy is formulated to relieve coughing and ease breathing.
  • HomeoPet Nose Relief - Although this remedy isn't specifically sold for kennel cough, its combination of all natural ingredients is formulated to relieve the symptoms of an upper respiratory infection.

It's important to understand that many homeopathic remedies will not improve your dog's symptoms immediately like conventional medications are designed to do. However, you should begin to see improvement over several days as the remedy builds up in your dog's system with repeated doses. Make sure you follow the directions on the label of any remedy you choose to try.

Dietary Supplements

There are several food items you can add to your dog's regular meals that can help boost his immunity to fight off the infection.

  • Garlic-infused olive oil can help your dog to get better faster. All you need to do is place some peeled garlic cloves, whole or chopped, into a sealed jar with a few drops of olive oil and let sit for a day. Add some drops to your dog's kibble or canned food.
  • Coconut oil is an excellent antiviral agent. You can place about two teaspoons of coconut oil into your dog's food once a day. An additional benefit of the coconut oil is that it can entice a sick dog with a sore throat and poor appetite to eat.
  • Cinnamon is also an antiviral food that your dog can safely eat. You can add about a half teaspoon of cinnamon onto your dog's meals.
  • Raw honey is also good for dogs with sore throats and excessive coughing. You can give a half to one full tablespoon up to three times per day. You can mix it in their food or let them lick it off a spoon or mix it with some water and pour into a small bowl.
  • Just like people, a good herbal tea can make a dog with a cold feel better. You can take tea made from licorice root, peppermint, sage or eucalyptus, let it cool and mix it with your dog's kibble or wet food.
  • Probiotics can help to remove disease-causing bacteria, although make sure you don't give them at the same time as any antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian.

Environmental Conditions

It's also very important that your dog's surrounding environment is healthy.

  • Keep your dog away from damp floors.
  • Refrain from smoking in the house.
  • Scrupulously clean the areas your dog comes in contact with the most to limit his exposure to germs.
  • Clean off your furnace or air conditioner filter to remove more dust from the air.
  • Frequently clean and refresh his food and water bowls.
  • Wash all of his toys in hot soapy water and rinse well.
  • Add a humidifier to the room your dog sleeps in to help him at night when coughing can be worse.
Humidifier and plants

Other Dogs in the Home

Kennel cough is highly infectious, so if one of your dogs develops an infection, any other dogs you may have are also likely to get the virus. To help prevent a spread of the infection:

  • Try to isolate your sick dog from the others as much as possible.
  • Feed and water him from his own bowls and don't allow your other dogs access.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after every encounter with the sick dog. In fact, wash your hands before you touch him to prevent transferring opportunistic bacteria.

Use Your Judgment

You are more attuned to your dog's health than anyone else. If your dog appears to have any type of illness, it is up to you to judge whether a trip to the vet is in order. While kennel cough can go away on its own, your dog could actually have another condition that requires professional medical intervention. A visit to the vet is often well worth the trip. Your vet can confirm or rule out that your pet has a viral respiratory infection, and test for the presence of other respiratory bugs. A vet may prescribe antibiotics in order to treat a secondary bacterial infection or prevent one from developing. While this won't kill the original virus, it can dramatically improve your dog's symptoms. A vet might also decide to use aerosol therapy or a bronchodilator to help open the airways. Use your best judgment to make sure your dog gets the help he needs.

Home Treatments for Kennel Cough