Curb Kennel Cough with Holistic Preventions & Treatments

Curb Kennel Cough with Holistic Preventions & Treatments

My first encounter with kennel cough happened the day my Labrador sounded like he had something caught in his throat. Since he was known for eating pretty much everything from food to sticks, I thought he swallowed funny and needed help. After examining and trying everything to assist him, his odd, seal like barking cough continued and was getting worse. Confused as to what would be causing this a quick of symptom search on google, and the fact that he had been at a boarding facility in the last few days, made it clear that he had the dreaded kennel cough and I panicked.

All I had ever heard about kennel cough was how contagious it was…which made it sound really scary especially since we had a second (and much older) dog in the house. After a deeper dive down the google rabbit hole I found a number of articles that referred to kennel cough as the ‘the dog version of the human common cold’. With that knowledge I gave a huge sigh of relief. I realized I could handle this. I knew how to knock out a cold with holistic supports and spent the rest of the day cross checking herbs and remedies I would use on people with canine safety guides and came up with a plan. Within 24 hours of administering treatments there was a significant decline in symptoms and within 48 hours it was clear that he was truly on the mend and did not require a visit to the vet. I am happy to share the remedies I used then with even more I've learned about since that day. 

So let’s start at the beginning...What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is infectious bronchitis that can affect dogs of all ages and breeds. It is highly contagious and spreads easily in places where dogs congregate, such as boarding facilities, dog parks, and groomers. Some strains are so infectious it can spread throughout subdivisions where dogs aren't even in direct contact with other dogs. While the usual cause is bordetella bronchiseptica, it can be caused by a number of other bugs such as canine influenza, streptococcus equip subspecies zooepidemicus, canine adenovirus-2, and many others. 

Symptoms of kennel cough may include:

  • Sounding like something’s stuck in his throat
  • A barking cough (sometimes described as sounding like a honking goose)
  • Less interest in food
  • Runny nose
  • Low energy or less interested in his usual activities
  • And in more severe cases, a fever and sometimes thick nasal discharge

While a vaccine is available to prevent kennel cough, it is not always effective due to the fact that it does not cover all the many strains that can cause kennel cough. Many dog owners, like myself, prefer to take a more natural approach to preventing and treating kennel cough. 

So let’s explore how to prevent and treat kennel cough using holistic and homeopathic remedies.


If you are looking for a natural approach to prevent kennel cough you will want to focus on strengthening your dog’s immune system to reduce the likelihood of them contracting the disease. There are several ways you can do this.

1. Fresh Nutrition: A balanced, whole-food diet is essential for maintaining a strong immune system. Avoid feeding processed foods (aka - kibble). Instead choose a species appropriate diet that includes fresh meats and vegetables. 

2. Probiotics: Probiotics are live bacteria that help to support healthy gut function. The gut plays a significant role in the immune system, and it has been shown that a healthy gut can boost your pet's immune system. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that can help promote healthy gut flora. We recommend probiotic supplements specially formulated with cats & dogs in mind. A healthy gut is essential for a strong immune system.

3. Medicinal Herbs: Herbs such as echinacea, astragalus, and licorice root have immune-boosting properties and can help to prevent kennel cough. These can be given as tinctures with your dog's meals.

4. Medicinal Mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms  have immune-boosting properties and can help to support a healthy immune system. Mushrooms like reishi, turkey tail, shiitake, phellinus, chaga, and cordyceps are awesome immunity boosters.

Medicinal Mushrooms at Pet Grocer

You can source them individually or seek out blends like Four Leaf Rover's Seven 'Shrooms

Four Leaf Rover Seven 'Shrooms at Pet Grocer

Treatment & Support

If your dog does contract kennel cough treating it in the early phase is important. Left untreated it can turn from a mild case to a severe case with symptoms that could include fever and could turn into pneumonia. 

There are several holistic and homeopathic remedies that can help to ease their symptoms and speed up their recovery time. 

1. Remove neck collars to lessen irritation of the throat area.

2. Feed soft foods. Nothing hard or crispy and no bones. Food should be easy to swallow and not irritate the throat.

3. Keep exercise to a minimum. This is a big one, often with movement comes more coughing and more irritation. Keep your dog calm and use this time to make sure they are getting rest and repair. 

4. Some dogs may need to have their bowls lifted. The act of reaching downward for a bowl may induce coughing fits. 

5. Olive Leaf powder: Olive leaf is considered Nature’s Antibiotic having anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic properties. It can easily be administered daily and given with broth or food.

Olive Leaf Powder from Pet Grocer

6. Manuka Honey: Manuka honey has natural antibacterial properties and can help to soothe a sore throat and cough.

Manuka honey is a very potent honey because it contains natural chemicals called methylglyoxal (MGO), dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and leptosperin that give it antibiotic, anti-fungal and antiviral properties. As well as soothing to the throat, it’s full of antioxidants and it’s a prebiotic that makes probiotics more effective. 

There are a number of ‘imposter’ manuka honey brands out there. Make sure to look for Manuka honey that meets New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for manuka honey testing standards or a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) of 10 or more. At Pet Grocer we are partial to Wedderspoon’s Monofloral honey which exceeds MPI standards boasting a KFACTOR Rating of 16.

If your dog enjoys slowly licking sticky treats off a spoon, this is a great way to offer a dose of Manuka honey. If you have a gulper that loves to swallow food quickly you may want to melt your honey in lukewarm water and allow them to drink it. Water should be just warm to the touch, never add honey to boiling water as it negates the beneficial healing properties. 

Wedderspoon Manuka honey at Pet Grocer.

7. Homeopathic Remedies: Homeopathic remedies such as drosera, Aconitum, and phosphorus (as well as many others) may help to ease coughing and other respiratory symptoms. Here are some recommendations:

Homeopathic remedies for kennel cough at Pet Grocer

 Homeopathic Dosing with water from Pet Grocer.

 8. Medicinal Herbs: Echinacea, licorice root, and slippery elm can be helpful at soothing inflamed bronchial passages due to persistent coughing and irritation. These can be administered as tinctures or as a tea. To brew these herbs as a tea place herbs in a mason jar (for my 80 lbs dog I used a liter mason jar, make a smaller or larger jar as required for your dog's size) and add hot water or broth. Steep for 10 to 15 minutes then allow it to cool to room temperature before serving to your dog. Serve this tea in place of their regular water bowl or top their food with it you can also add a dose of Manuka to it (see #6 above for instructions). It can be given throughout the day to calm and ease symptoms. I would steep a jar for the day and give it every few hours or leave it in a water bowl so that he had access to it as needed. 

Once you begin administering these holistic remedies you could begin to see improvements over the course of 24 - 48 hours. Continue administering remedies until coughing subsides completely. 

By taking a holistic approach to your dog's health, you may help to support a healthy immune system and ensure that they stay happy and healthy for years to come.

**It is important to note that while these natural remedies may be effective in preventing and treating kennel cough, they are not a replacement for proper holistic veterinary care. If your dog's symptoms persist or worsen, it is important to seek the advice of a holistic veterinarian.**