Can a Dog Die From Kennel Cough?

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dog at kennel with caregiver
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This article was updated on November 14th, 2023

Key highlights from Dr. Chyrle Bonk:

– Kennel cough is typically mild, mostly a nuisance.
– Rarely, kennel cough can be fatal.
– Dogs with other respiratory or chronic health conditions can develop pneumonia that can cause permanent damage to lung tissue or even death.
– Always see your vet if your dog has been coughing for more than a couple of days or showing other signs of illness such as breathing problems, wheezing or loss of appetite

Dr. Chyrle Bonk

Veterinarian at

Kennel cough is known for its characteristic goose-honking cough along with possibly a runny nose, low-grade fever, lethargy and not wanting to eat – but could a dog actually die from the complications of Kennel Cough?

In some rare instances, kennel cough can indeed be fatal to dogs. Let’s look at the details.

When to Worry About Kennel Cough

Most cases of kennel cough are fairly mild and tend to more of a nuisance than anything else. It’s still best to seek treatment if your dog is coughing. This is mostly because a dog’s coughing may be due to something more serious than kennel cough.

Additionally, you don’t want to ignore kennel cough completely as some cases may turn into pneumonia.

Always see your veterinarian if your dog has been coughing for more than a couple of days. You’ll also want to seek professional care if:

  • your pup stops eating
  • if their coughing is keeping them from exercising or sleeping.
  • if your hear any wheezing or
  • if your dog has difficulty breathing.

When a Dog Can Die From Kennel Cough

In very rare cases, Kennel cough can be fatal if it leads to a secondary pneumonia: most otherwise healthy dogs are going to weather kennel cough well, but those that have other respiratory or chronic health conditions are more likely to develop pneumonia that can cause permanent damage to lung tissue or even death.

Signs of pneumonia in dogs may include:

  • coughing,
  • rapid or labored breathing,
  • fever or nasal discharge,
  • lethargy, and
  • lack of appetite.

It’s very important to consult with your vet if you see any of the above signs in your dog.

How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?

Kennel cough infections typically last only one or two weeks, with the first week being the worst. Your dog should then be able to live a long & happy life.

Some dogs may have trouble for three or four weeks. Most mild cases of kennel cough will go away on their own, however treatment may help speed the recovery as well as decrease the contagiousness to other dogs.

How is Kennel Cough Treated?

Most mild cases of kennel cough will go away on their own, however treatments can help get your dog feeling better sooner. Veterinarians may prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infections and cough suppressants to help a dog (and owner!) get some sleep.

Nebulizers that contain antibiotics and bronchodilators can be used for more serious cases but generally aren’t needed.

There is also a kennel cough vaccine available that your veterinarian may recommend if you have a show dog or one that is groomed or boarded regularly. Some boarding kennels, groomers, and obedience classes will require kennel cough vaccines in order to protect all associated animals.

How Much is A Vet Treatment for Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a fairly inexpensive disease to treat. An office visit and prescription medications typically run from $50-$150. If more extensive bloodwork or x-rays are needed, costs may increase to $500. This is more for cases that develop secondary pneumonia.

Are There At-Home Treatments for Kennel Cough?

Since most mild cases of kennel cough go away on their own, you can absolutely try some at-home treatments first.

  • Using a harness instead of a collar to walk your dog can help decrease aggrevation to the throat.
  • You may also bring your dog into the bathroom while you shower since the moist heat can help decrease throat irritation and break up any congestion they may have.
  • Otherwise, just make sure they are eating and drinking normally and try to keep them away from other animals until all signs are gone.
  • See your veterinarian if your dog runs a high fever, isn’t eating or drinking, or if coughing is keeping them from sleeping or exercising.

Read our article: 9 Best Home Remedies to Help a Coughing Dog [Vet Advice]

Can a Dog Die if Kennel Cough Goes Untreated?

Some cases of kennel cough can lead to secondary pneumonia. This typically only happens to dogs that have underlying respiratory issues or other health conditions. Secondary pneumonia can become very serious, especially if its not treated, and be fatal to dogs in rare instances.

However, most cases of kennel cough are going to go away on their own. If your dog is showing severe signs, be sure to see your veterinarian. Your dog’s kennel cough might just disappear even if it is untreated.


  • Dr Chyrle Bonk, Veterinarian

    Dr. Chyrle Bonk received her Master in Animal Science from the University of Idaho and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Oregon State University in 2010. She has over 10 years of experience in small animal veterinary practice, working for a veterinary clinic in Idaho.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.

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