Counting the Days: Kennel Cough Duration & How to Help

Kennel cough lasts different amounts of time based on several factors. Find out what's normal and how to help your dog heal as fast as possible.

Updated January 3, 2024
Dog resting on bed

Many factors determine how long a case of kennel cough will last, although on average, most dogs have it for about seven to 14 days. While some cases resolve quickly without medication, other cases are more serious and last longer. You can help your dog recover more quickly by learning how to recognize the signs of a potential complication.

What Makes Kennel Cough Last Longer?

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis or canine cough, is the term used to describe a number of viral and bacterial infections that affect the bronchi, larynx, and trachea. There are several factors that can affect the duration of kennel cough.

Fast Fact

This highly contagious respiratory disease can affect a dog at any stage of their life.

The Strain of Bug Matters and Impacts Duration

The length of time the dog is ill can depend on the type of viral agent that gave the dog kennel cough.

Canine Parainfluenza

If your dog is affected with the parainfluenza virus, they may be sick for around six to 14 days


A common bacteria that leads to kennel cough is Bordetella bronchiseptica. Dogs infected with Bordetella usually experience symptoms for about 10 to 20 days.


Sometimes, a secondary infection occurs in addition to kennel cough, which results in a serious upper respiratory infection. A case of kennel cough with a secondary infection usually takes longer to resolve than one without complications and requires antibiotics and other supportive care. 

It's not uncommon for dogs to be infected by both the parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bacteria, and these dogs can be sick for 14 to 20 days or more, though the severity of their symptoms will vary over this time period.

Dogs who develop kennel cough after infection with the distemper virus, Mycoplasma canis, or canine flu are at greater risk of developing pneumonia and a prolonged illness.

Fast Fact

The main symptom of kennel cough is a dry, honking cough.

Type of Treatment Needed

A dog may recover from some viral forms of the infection without medication. However, they may develop a lingering bacterial infection that requires antibiotics to resolve it.

Health and Age Impact Length of Sickness

A healthy dog has the best chance of recovering quickly. Dogs with weak immune systems or other health conditions, such as a collapsing trachea, may be susceptible to secondary infections or other complications.

Age of the Dog

An adult dog may fight off the infection more easily than a senior or geriatric dog. However, very young puppies have a weaker immune system and have a harder time fighting off disease. Unvaccinated puppies are at a particularly high risk of developing kennel cough. 

Reducing the Length of Kennel Cough

One of the best ways to help your dog get over kennel cough faster is to take them to a veterinarian right away. Early treatment can speed your dog's recovery and prevent a secondary infection from prolonging your pet's illness. It can also prevent your dog from getting worse and developing pneumonia.

It's not unusual for dog owners to dismiss kennel cough as "just a cold" and not go to the vet. It's critical to take your dog in for an examination to prevent them from developing more serious conditions and to reduce the time they're sick and uncomfortable. 

Kennel Cough Treatment by Your Veterinarian

After examining your dog, your veterinarian may take different measures depending on how mild or severe the case is.

Female veterinarian examining puppy

Mild Kennel Cough

In mild cases, your veterinarian will usually instruct you to make modifications to the dog's environment to help ease their symptoms. This might mean installing a humidifier to help soothe your dog's respiratory discomfort and walking your dog on a harness to reduce pressure on their throat.

Severe Kennel Cough

In more severe cases, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics and a cough suppressant in addition to advising you to keep the dog's neck clear and keep the area humid.

Commonly used kennel cough antibiotics include Baytril, doxycycline, and Clavamox, which are given orally.

Fast Fact

Mild cases of kennel cough will often resolve on their own, but you should still bring your dog to the vet to make sure they are not at risk for developing anything more serious.

Home Remedies to Ease Symptoms

Your veterinarian may also suggest some home remedies you can use in addition to medications to help make your dog feel better.

Need to Know

Always discuss any potential home remedy with your veterinarian before trying it on your dog. Only your veterinarian can tell you if there could be potential negative complications for your individual pup.

  • A half to one full teaspoon of raw honey a few times per day may help soothe their irritated throat. This dosage is for a 50-pound dog, so you should increase or decrease based on your dog's size. Use only raw honey without any additives or artificial sweeteners (these can be highly toxic to dogs). 
  • Some dog owners give their dogs vitamin C using a children's supplement of between 25 to 50 milligrams per day. However, certain breeds can develop urinary stones from vitamin C, so discuss this with your veterinarian first if you have a bichon frise, miniature poodle, schnauzer, shi tzu, lhasa apso, or Yorkshire terrier.
  • One teaspoon of coconut oil in your dog's food each day may help with kennel cough because of its antiviral properties, but it can sometimes stimulate a sick dog's appetite when it's mixed in their kibble.

Secondary Infections With Kennel Cough

Once a dog is exposed to the airborne infection, the pathogens invade the body and disrupt the normal function of the respiratory system. Over a two to 10 day incubation period, the pathogens temporarily destroy the protective cilia lining of the larynx, trachea, and bronchi. Without the protective lining, the pathogens may also move into the lungs and trigger a secondary infection in some dogs.

Fast Fact

The most common secondary infection is pneumonia.

Signs of Kennel Cough with Secondary Infection

Bulldog with termometer

Small breeds, puppies, dogs with weak immune systems, and dogs with pre-existing health conditions, such as chronic bronchitis, are even more susceptible to developing a secondary infection. The typical signs of kennel cough with a secondary infection include:

Cases of kennel cough with a secondary infection can last between two weeks to nearly one month, perhaps longer without medical intervention.

How Is Kennel Cough Spread?

Kennel cough is transmitted through the air when dogs are in close contact. The bacteria and viral agents enter the dog's respiratory tract as the dog inhales the surrounding air. It can also be spread through direct contact between dogs and contaminated areas, like kennel run floors and walls, toys, and bowls.

Common places where kennel cough can be spread are dog parks, training classes, dog shows, and anywhere many dogs congregate together. This is why the Bordetella vaccine is required for most boarding facilities.

Need to Know

A dog can appear perfectly healthy and still be contagious for kennel cough. If your dog has just recovered from kennel cough and is 100% symptom-free, they should continue to stay isolated from other dogs for at least two weeks.

What Does Kennel Cough Sound Like?

The most distinguishing feature of the illness is the kennel cough sound, which is a dry, hacking cough that sounds painful and almost as if the dog is choking in more severe cases. It can also have a wheezing, honking noise associated with the coughing.

Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian

If you're concerned that your day may have kennel cough, it's important to reach out to your vet. Use these questions as a guide when speaking to your veterinarian:

  1. Are there any precautions you'd like me to take before bringing my pet into the clinic for an exam?
  2. What should I monitor for during the recovery period? 
  3. Are there at-home measures I can take to help my dog feel more comfortable? 
  4. Are follow-up exams necessary?
  5. How soon after my dog recovers can they receive the Bordetella vaccine? 

Speed Up Your Dog's Kennel Cough Recovery

While kennel cough usually isn't serious, it can develop into more concerning conditions if your dog picks up secondary infections. It's also very uncomfortable for your dog, so it's always best to get in to your veterinarian right away to make sure they aren't at risk for other medical issues and to get some medication to relieve their symptoms.

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Counting the Days: Kennel Cough Duration & How to Help