A dog coughing should get your attention and not be ignored. The worst coughing comes with kennel cough, even mild kennel cough. The main symptom of kennel cough is that he sounds like he is “honking,” as if something is stuck in his throat.
Dogs with mild kennel cough sound terrible but feel reasonably OK. They tend to have a good appetite, want to be active (which, unfortunately, makes them cough more), and generally don’t act sick. These dogs can usually be treated at home.
In more severe cases, kennel cough symptoms may progress toward pneumonia and include lethargy, fever, and a loss of appetite. These coughing dogs need to see a veterinarian.
Do You Think Your Dog Has a Cold?
If your you see your dog coughing and he has a heart condition or a wet cough, the dog’s cough shouldn’t be treated at home without veterinary approval. It could be a cold or flu, which means the coughing dog needs to see a veterinarian. Symptoms include:
- Purulent (pus) nasal discharge
- Soft, wet cough
- Increased respiratory rate (count how many times his chest rises in a minute – normal is 15 to 30 times)
- Open-mouth breathing
- Labored breathing
Your coughing dog could be diagnosed with bronchitis, and if so, he will likely receive medication from your veterinarian, possible including a cough suppressant.
Caring for Kennel Cough at Home
At-home care for kennel cough means easing the symptoms:
- Limit exercise (exercise will increase the coughing)
- Walk him in a harness, not a collar (if he pulls in a collar, the pressure on his trachea will make him cough more)
- Let him share your shower – close your dog in the bathroom with you and let it get steamy, as this will help humidify his respiratory tract and provide some pain relief from the dry cough
- Run a humidifier in his favorite room
Home Remedies for a Mild Dog Cough
Some foods may speed up your kennel-cough dog’s healing, such as adding a small amount of honey to his food. And, yes, chicken soup can help. Use homemade soup as a low-salt alternative to canned soup. Low-sodium chicken bouillon is another good option.
Hydration and rest will help your dog through mild kennel cough. If your dog needs cough medication, check with your veterinarian for the best options and correct dose for your dog.
Also, quarantine your dog, as kennel cough is contagious (there’s a vaccine for it!). There are many causes of kennel cough, and you don’t want your dog to be one of them, spreading kennel cough at daycare, classes, or the dog park.