The treatment for kennel cough is individualized to the particular dog. In most cases, the dog takes about one to three weeks to fully recover.
You can hasten the recovery by making sure your dog gets plenty of rest, takes enough fluids, and has a nutritious diet. Your vet is the best person to assess your dog for the severity of the infection and prescribe proper treatment.
How Vets Diagnose Kennel Cough in Dogs
In most cases, a presumptive diagnosis of kennel cough can be made based clinical signs, history, and response to therapy.
Identifying the underlying virus is often not required. However, diagnostic testing is recommended in patients where pneumonia is suspected; those that do not respond to supportive care; those with signs of systemic disease; and if an outbreak is occurring in multiple dogs.
Bloodwork (specifically complete blood count) can sometimes reveal an elevated white blood cell count in those dogs with pneumonia as a complicating factor.
Chest radiographs and usually unremarkable in patients with mild to moderate cases of kennel cough. Radiographs are helpful in ruling out pneumonia, collapsing trachea, congestive heart failure, bronchitis or other causes of coughing in dogs.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Assay are commonly used tests for viral detection. Samples for this test are obtained by nasal or oropharyngeal swabs (like COVID testing or human strep throat testing). False negative and positive results are possible.
Other testing may include transtracheal washing and bacterial culture in cases of persistent or recurrent coughing.
The treatment for kennel cough will depend on your dog and the severity of the kennel cough. Do not use a collar and leash if your dog has kennel cough or is recovering. Change to using harnesses during walks, as collars with leashes place extra pressure on the trachea, which induces coughing.
For mild cases of kennel cough, treatment may only include supportive care, which focuses on rest, nutrition, and hydration.
A cough suppressant may be prescribed by your dog’s veterinarian to help reduce the frequency of the cough.
It should take about one to two weeks for a dog to recover from a mild case of kennel cough. Some dogs can completely recover on their own with no treatment required.
Complicated cases of kennel cough can cause your dog to become very sick. A dog with severe kennel cough will most likely be coughing, acting very lethargic, and not wanting to eat or drink.
If a dog has developed pneumonia, then treatment can involve:
The cost of kennel cough treatment in complicated cases can sometimes be over $1,000 depending on the number of days of hospitalization required.
Are There Home Remedies for Kennel Cough in Dogs?
For mild cases of kennel cough, there are a few at-home remedy options. However, keep an eye out for signs that the kennel cough is getting worse or not getting better.
Honey can be a great home remedy for kennel cough as it can help soothe your dogs throat and minimize coughing.
You can give your dog 1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon of honey mixed with a little warm water in a bowl. This can be offered up to three times a day depending on how often your dog is coughing.
A small humidifier can be placed near your dog while they are resting.
The humidifier will moisten the air that your dog breathes, which can help with irritation of the respiratory tract.
Use Your Shower to Do Steam Therapy
If you’re taking a hot shower or bath, let your dog stay in the closed bathroom with you—but not in the shower or bath. The hot shower can provide steam therapy and also help to decrease irritation.
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