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Kennel Cough In Dogs Explained

Dogs running in grass.

You and the family have just got back from a nice long trip and have come to pick your pooch up from the kennel to them home. But there’s something wrong – your pup sounds like it’s got something stuck in its throat.

You ask the people at the kennel if they fed the dog anything unusual, or if they were given any chew toys etc. Nothing. If this seems to be the case, or if you haven’t put your dog in a kennel and it’s experiencing similar symptoms – there’s a likely chance that your dog is probably suffering from some form of Bordetella, otherwise known as kennel cough.

Woman sneezing into tissue.

The Common Cold.

Much like the common cold in humans, kennel cough is transferred through tiny spit and mucus particles that are spread through coughing and sneezing. As a pet owner, you should know that it’s generally considered a rather mild form of infection – so long as it’s caught early enough and treated. Without treating the infection, it can lead to rather serious issues that may become life-threatening as the infection worsens.

I’d like to help you identify the infection and its symptoms so that you can treat it early enough. This will not just keep your four-legged friend healthy and happy but also save yourself the trouble of expensive visits to the vet and costly meds.

Bordetella, AKA Kennel Cough Explained

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium that infects the upper respiratory system of dogs and is one of the pathogens responsible for the common infection known as kennel cough. While the bacteria generally affect dogs, the common ailment can also have an effect on the health of people. Much like the common cold in humans, Bordetella is an airborne virus and tends to spread from one host to another through the air.

Kennel cough gets its name from the propensity to be contracted by dogs kept in close quarters with each other. Infectious molecules are passed from one host to another through mucus and spit molecules spread through sneezing, coughing and coming into direct contact with other infected dogs.

The bacteria quickly begin to multiply once they’ve established themselves inside a host. Nevertheless, dogs aren’t considered “infected” until there are enough of the pathogens inside the dog when the symptoms will become more noticeable as the infection worsens.

Dog coughing.

Kennel Cough.

Symptoms of kennel cough generally start off mild, usually with a slight cough, sneezing, or gagging sounds. However, as the infection worsens, the cough can become worse and, in some cases, lead to pneumonia – which could be fatal. Thankfully, the disease doesn’t usually get to that point. Furthermore, if your dog has a strong immune system and maintains a well-balanced diet, you shouldn’t have any serious issues.

Although there are easy to find medications out there, many pet owners prefer natural and homeopathic remedies. In fact, many of these can be used as preventative measures to help reduce the chances of your pet getting infected in the first place.  I always recommend this route before pharmaceutical drugs or antibiotics as they have little to no side-effects and generally boost your dog’s overall immune system in the process.

The Difference Between Bordetella Pertussis & Bordetella (Kennel Cough)

It is true that bordetella pertussis and bordetella are closely related, but they manifest themselves differently during infections and are actually quite different.

Bordetella pertussis tends to primarily infect humans and can often lead to ‘whooping cough’. In this sense, it’s somewhat more advanced than the standard bordetella virus, which only infects dogs (or very rarely affects humans). While the two diseases may share similar symptoms, means of spreading, and even the means of cure or prevention are similar – the diseases are not the same and will not affect dogs as they affect humans and vice versa.

Bordetella (Kennel Cough) Symptoms

Symptoms of kennel cough include signs of coughing or sneezing at first but may worsen if the infection goes untreated. Gagging sounds may also accompany the issue as your dog tries to get rid of excess phlegm and mucus. Gagging and vomiting may eventually occur if the infection isn’t stopped in its tracks. Keep an eye out for a white discharge of liquid from your pooch’s eyes which may look like the proteins that gather in our eyelids when we wake up. This is usually the first sign of infection and the best time to begin treatment.

Symptoms of kennel cough include signs of coughing or sneezing at first but may worsen if the infection goes untreated. Gagging sounds may also accompany the issue as your dog tries to get rid of excess phlegm and mucus. Gagging and vomiting may eventually occur if the infection isn’t stopped in its tracks. Keep an eye out for a white discharge of liquid from your pooch’s eyes which may look like the proteins that gather in our eyelids when we wake up. This is usually the first sign of infection and the best time to begin treatment.

Is The Bordetella Shot Safe For Dogs?

Dog getting injection from vet.

Dog Getting the Bordetella Vaccine.

While many vets will agree that it’s imperative for your dog to be vaccinated correctly, a lot of vets also claim that while the vaccine may help your pet in terms of defending itself against this disease. This can potentially allow your pet’s body to create antibodies that are able to fight the infection. Although many people claim that vaccines are causing to an increase in allergies in dogs (which have knock-on effects on their general health), the evidence is still not conclusive.

Overall, I would recommend getting the vaccine, while ensuring that they have a good, balanced diet and maintain a strong immune system. I’d also recommend only using trusted borders if you have to house your dog for an extended period of time – as this is the best way to ensure that they don’t catch any unnecessary pathogens or diseases.

Top Natural Bordetella Remedies For Dogs: Raw Honey, Nosodes, Esberitox

Close up of honey comb.

Raw Honey for your Pup.

Natural raw honey is one of the best ways to treat a wide variety of health ailments, even in our four-legged buddies. This is due to its potent natural antiseptic and antibacterial agents which are highly effective at reducing the formation and spread of bacteria, ultimately limiting the effects of an infection or disease. Dogs love it because it’s sweet and tasty, plus it’s a really good carrier for spices like cinnamon and clove which are also effective antiseptic agents. These spices can surprisingly do wonders for helping clear up the infectious mucus while also aiding their immune system.


Nosodes are a lot like vaccines, except they’re not injected – they’re administered orally. Nosodes are essentially created from organic matter that is extracted from an infected body – usually in the form of nasal discharge. The infected material is subjected to a lengthy dilution process wherein the infected organic matter is ultimately reduced to a bioenergetic remedy that resembles the energetic blueprint of the disease in question.

I personally prefer administering the medication with raw honey as this doubles the healing effects and makes it easier for your dog to swallow. It’s a cheap, effective, and all-natural remedy that should have your dog in good health again in no time.


Esberitox packaging.

Esberitox for Dogs?

Esberitox, but more specifically Esberitox N, is a highly effective natural remedy for treating the symptoms of the common cold and the flu in humans and recently, kennel cough in dogs. Esberitox is rich in natural ingredients that have been specially collected in order to create a lasting shield against bacteria infecting your body as well as helping to treat the signs of infection once you or your pet has become infected.

Essential Oils For Bordetella In Dogs: Lavender, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus


Small bottle of purple liquid next to lavender.

Lavender Oil.

Lavender oil is a fantastic natural treatment for a wide variety of different health ailments due to its natural antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. The oil also smells great and has a significant calming effect on dogs, allowing them to rest, and build up their strength, thus aiding the recovery process.

Lavender oil is best administered topically through the dog’s skin or blended in a suitable carrier oil (such as coconut oil and raw honey – a personal favorite of mine) and administered orally. It’s a fast acting, all-natural remedy that can also be used prior to infection to help prevent infections in the first place.

Tea Tree

Tea Tree oil is a known as another potent, natural antibacterial treatment and can be used as a cough treatment. This works to promote better breathing by loosening phlegm in the larynx, thus reducing the rate and spread of the infection.


Small bottle of yellow liquid next to leaves.

Eucalyptus Oil.

I  generally prefer using eucalyptus in combination with tea tree oil since the two are more effective when used in tandem. Eucalyptus essential oil generally has the same effects as tea tree oil when it comes to treating kennel cough and is best administered with a slight hint ofpeppermint oil in a suitable carrier – again, I’d recommend raw honey here.

This mixture helps to kill off the infectious as well as loosening infected phlegm in the throat. Eucalyptus also helps to ease breathing – thus making it easier for your dog to breathe without the hassle of vaporizers and costly cough medications.

DIY Natural Kennel Cough Cure

This is a little homemade recipe that I came up with at home to help treat and prevent the spread or onset of Bordetella in the first place. The best part is that it’s quick, easy, and all-natural! What you need:

  • 1 Tablespoon Raw Honey
  • 2 Drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • 2 Drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • 1 ¼ Teaspoon Cinnamon Powder

Simply blend the essential oils with the honey – add a little more honey if you feel you need to (+/- a teaspoon). Once the oils are blended with the honey, add the cinnamon powder and stir well so that it blends into the mixture.

You can then add this mixture to your dog’s food or give it to them in its raw form. It’s a great alternative to pharmaceutical cough mixtures and is far healthier than antibiotics.


To conclude, Bordetella is definitely something that we should treat sooner than later and by keeping an eye out for the symptoms, you can stop the disease from becoming serious at the onset. Generally, the issue stops at the coughing, sneezing and vomiting – but if things start getting worse while using natural treatments – it may be worthwhile to take your pet to a vet sooner rather than later.