Kennel Cough: Natural Prevention of the Canine Cold

You’re heading out for vacation, and it’s time to find someone to take care of your dogs.

Do you choose a kennel? A pet sitter to visit twice daily to feed and walk your guys? An overnight house sitter/pet sitter?

I did some of the latter for a little extra change when I was in vet school. Really not there during the day, but the animals saw me every night when I stayed from dinner time till classes the next morning. I fed them, petted them, let them out, and made sure all were okay. Seemed like a win-win situation, but you may not want to go as far as having someone sleeping over while you're away.

A budding kennel owner prompts this post when he recently wrote in the comments:

"I have a question about kennel cough. I’m starting up a business in kenneling and grooming animals, and I’ve heard about kennel cough, and how it can get passed on through out the animals in the kennels, if one dog was to have it. My question is what about vaccinations…?"

Ah, he must be talking about bordello. Er, bordetello. No, bartinello? Wait, what’s the other name for kennel cough?


Yes, lots of funny interpretations of this bacteria’s name. But it’s not the only bug involved in kennel cough. A mixed bag, kennel cough often involves a virus as well, parainfluenza, and probably several other culprits, like mycoplasma.

As usual, only those susceptible individuals get it. Vital animals just respond appropriately, like healthy people who don’t pick up the cold going around, because their immune systems fight off the cold virus.

If your dog is fed appropriately, and you avoid repeated vaccinations like the plague, stay away from toxic things like flea control spot ons and heartworm monthly pills, odds are he’ll never get this canine “cold” known as kennel cough.

Even if he spends time in a kennel.

Just a Cold?

Yes, kennel cough is the dog version of a human cold. No one dies of it. It’s a harsh cough that can last as long as three weeks, but the way to avoid it is largely by raising a vital animal.

Lots of kennel owners and even groomers will expect you to get your dog vaccinated for kennel cough before accepting them into their kennel. Some shows and agility trials have similar notions. Let’s look at this, so that you are well informed and can offer a reasonable response when someone recommends this vaccination.

Why All The Fuss? CYA.

Why are kennel owners and often groomers so worked up about demanding vaccinations for a common cold? We have to look largely at self interest for the answer.

Kennel cough is contagious, and often occurs when groups of animals are housed closely together, though again, only the susceptible will get it. The kennel owners don't want to be blamed if your dog comes home from kenneling with a 2-3 week honking cough. It's a liability thing. So, the vaccines are part of C.Y.A. (aka "cover your backside," as the Brits like to say).

Here's a logical way to placate their fear without the risk of further vaccination: sign a waiver. "I, __________, will not hold you ______ or your kennel responsible if my dog gets kennel cough while under your care. I assume full responsibility."

Bold, right? Most kennel owners would be happy to have something like this on file, and it serves their need for CYA. And, if you happen to get a case of kennel cough, it can be curtailed rather quickly by a visit to your homeopathic veterinarian.

Vaccination for Kennel Cough: Not!

For a vaccination to make sense to use, it’d have to pass the usual gold standards of inquiry:

Does it work?

Is it safe?

The kennel cough vaccine can’t answer either question with a resounding yes. It’s really pretty much a weakling in the vaccine world.

Efficacy is another way to ask, how well does this work? Turns out it’s a lousy immunizing combo, with at best a very short lived protection against only some of the bugs known to cause this canine cold.

The efficacy of preventing kennel cough in your dog by giving a vaccination is so lacking that noted immunologist Richard Schultz, PhD says,

"Kennel cough is not a vaccinatable disease."

That's not to say its not preventable, but this is a top vaccination authority's judgement about the value of using the vaccine to prevent this cold in dogs.

Safety is the other concern. As with other vaccines, illness can come from the very act of vaccinating. The risk of vaccinosis is real, especially when a vaccination is repeated multiple times throughout your animals life. It’s very common to hear recommendations that kennel cough vaccine be given twice a year.

Furthermore, some vaccines make the recipient more likely to get the illness, the exact opposite effect hoped for. Kennel cough vaccine was found to do just that in the study listed below.

Protection Without Risk

Chris Day, MRCVS  has a published study [1. Day, C. (1987)  Isopathic prevention of kennel cough -- is vaccination justified?  International Journal of Veterinary Homeopathy 2: 45] done on a kennel that was battling kennel cough for years without success. As a veterinary homeopath, he brought kennel cough nosodes in, gave them to all the incoming dogs in the kennel, and watched the disease incidence plummet.

Nosodes are homeopathically prepared medicines made from the actual disease discharge, but diluted and prepared in such a way that they carry no risk of infection. They are given orally to trigger the animal's immune system to respond to only that particular illness trying to gain a foothold in the animal.

Kennel owners can use nosodes effectively to prevent the common scourges of kennel life, most notably parvo and distemper and kennel cough. I was just conversing by email with my friend and colleague Don Hamilton DVM, who used nosodes in a kennel and saw a dramatic drop in their parvo and kennel cough cases when they added it to the drinking water.

Kennel Owners Note: Cheap, Easy Protection

I'd hope you'll stop asking your clients to repeatedly vaccinate their animals for kennel cough, or anything else, for that matter. If they were vaccinated early in life, which most were, they are done. Immunity lasts a lifetime, in most cases. So say the experts who've been too long ignored by Dr. WhiteCoat.

We're looking into supplying KC nosodes. Stay tuned for this page to update when we do.

And pet owners: you can also avail yourself of these nosodes cheaply, should your kennel or groomer accept them. Just write me at the above address.

I'd also routinely give Motherboard before I sent a dog off to the roof top, er kennel. Good to bolster immunity when ever you foresee stress coming.


Let us know in the comments if you've dealt with this bothersome disease. And better yet, if you've used nosodes to protect your dog successfully during kenneling.

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  1. Winnipups on October 27, 2021 at 3:45 pm

    My Japanese Shiba Inu was also facing the same problem although we went to Vet but it didn’t help much but this post was very much helped us identify our problem and maybe we can fix it Thanks!

  2. alice woo on February 16, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Doc.
    I have labs, and right now I have a pregnant female (I think only 18 days after insemination.) I am very hollistic in my approach. My dogs (3 girls) only get the rabies shot. what should i give her during her pregnancy to keep her healthy and happy? I currently give her what is called “Bitch Pills” and extra vitamin E and C and pureed carrots with parsley.
    Thank you

  3. Elle on June 24, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    That Transfer Factor is simply AMAZING! Given to my puppy, Juliette, back in 2003 who was suffering from every parasite known to man, you effectively enhanced her immune system and her parasites left for parts unknown. Prior to that, Dr. Whitecoats were dipping her in lighter fluid to kill her mange. Horrible and barbaric, indeed!
    I give TF to my present dog on a non-regular basis and aside from our little debacle last Spring, is very healthy. So I haven’t been able to actually witness TF’s effects on him.
    However, I give TF to sick chickens and right then and there I witness how incredibly effective this remedy is. TF gives them energy and vitality and bounce and if their body is prepared to become healthy again, TF gives them that leg up.
    I can keep them alive and happy with TF, but if after a couple of doses over a week or two, they’re still not able to get better on their own, then I let them depart. TF helps me be able to tell if I can help them return to health or if it’s their time.
    Just sharing that info because if anyone has a question about TF, I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s a stress reliever and an immune enhancer of the highest order.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on June 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      Hey Elle,
      I might try several days in a row of the TF Livestock Stress Pack when the chickens are in trouble. Very soluble form of both TF and electrolytes, so gets right to work boosting them when they are having a health challenge.
      And soluble means practical: you can dose them in the water! Whole flock treatment is easily accomplished, and won’t hurt any of them, even if they are not sick.
      The Stress Pack is for 10 day or less use, and I’d do at least 5 in a row to judge.
      Glad it’s worked so well for you. It’s been my go-to supplement for years now.

  4. Erica Christopher on June 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    I couldn’t remember if Fozzie’s groomer requested those documents or not and he hasn’t been back since his latest (and last) vaccination probably “expired” after choosing to raise our dogs The Vital Way with your guidance. So, I visited their website to see if it was posted and what I found astounded me…
    They have a link that includes some local favorite businesses such as doggy daycares, dog walkers, concierge services, etc. I clicked on a few before stumbling on Dog Boy’s Dog Ranch. By the looks of the pictures, it truly seems like a camp for dogs. But it wasn’t long until I noticed their Spay and Neuter Policy. Erk! They actually pride themselves in being “Central Texas’ first All Spayed and Neutered boarding facility!” Hopefully, they are also the last!!! So, not only are the boarding facilities trying to dictate what we inject into our pets’ bodies, they are also trying to play hero in stopping the pet overpopulation problem by refusing our intact dogs to board there. If they did a little research, they would soon discover, it’s a human problem created by irresponsible dog owners, not an issue of gonads or not.
    On the surface, it seems like spaying and neutering is the obvious answer to our problem. But after a little research one will find out that European dogs are rarely fixed and Europe doesn’t have a pet overpopulation problem, as least not as extensive as ours. So how do they do it? They control their female dogs when they are in season. “By employing this strategy, a nation can have intact dogs, even free-roaming intact dogs, and not have a surplus of puppies.” I just finished reading Ted Kerasotes book Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs. He goes on to suggest, that our pet overpopulation problem is actually rooted in our social problem. He points out that among all developed nations, the US has the thinnest social welfare system and the most widespread poverty, and it kills the most dogs each year. Studies suggest that when people are on the edge of surviving, they choose to care for their children first and frequently the only way to do that is to surrender their animals even if the dog or cat has been a longtime companion. Nearly 20% of people who relinquish their dogs had lived with their dogs for 12-14years. And nearly 60% relinquished to shelter for euthanasia because of “old age” came from households earning less than $35,000.
    If they are truly concerned with females becoming impregnated under their care, I would think that requesting a progesterone blood tests should suffice? More likely than not, I think it’s about a caring group of ill-informed people who made a policy without doing their homework. I wonder if they know about the flipside of spay and neuter?… the increase in prostate CA, urinary incontinence, obesity, osteosarcoma, diabetes, cushing’s disease, bladder cancer, mast cell cancer, hemangiosarcoma, hip dysplasia, lymphosarcoma, orthopedic injuries such as CCL tear, weak rear ends, shorter life spans, increase in reactivity, the list goes on.
    They might know (as we’ve all been warned at the vet’s office) about the risk of breast cancer and pyometria in an intact females. Karen Becker puts it nicely, “How did my profession end up preaching that because ovaries can cause two diseases, they should be automatically removed, even when the mortality rate for the two diseases they cause-pyometra and mammary cancer-is small? Have all the wet dog kisses licked away common sense?” And moreover, a .09% incidence of testicular cancer in intact males is hardly an argument in favor of the knife!
    I would think, a responsible owner of an intact animal, willing to pay $45/night, would be an unlikely candidate to willingly drop of their in estrous female for boarding. Just sayin’!
    Ps: Can you post your spay and neuter article directly to your blog? So many eyes need to see it! It’s a good one!!!

  5. elizabeth olsen on June 17, 2013 at 8:07 am

    I have 2 cats, 10 and 13. The 13 year old was diagnosed with diabetes and was on insulin for a month while I tested her blood at home so I could give her the appropriate amount and not more. This was done so I could get her off insulin and it worked. She now eats a low/no carb diet. She now has hyperthyroidism and gets a pill every day. The other cat is fine. I recently took them both to get their teeth cleaned to be proactive.
    About 2 months ago I applied to adopt a dog from a rescue. I didn’t hear anything and emailed them. They said they could not get a good reference. I am assuming this is because i won’t keep vaccinating my cats who live only in my home and don’t even make it to the basement. What can I say to them?

    • Will Falconer, DVM on June 17, 2013 at 9:16 pm

      Hi Elizabeth,
      Perhaps they’d be open minded enough to read more, perhaps not. I’d ask them if they understand that vaccinations confer years if not lifetime immunity, and if not, would they like to understand that by reading more on it? Not all will, certainly.
      And the first step would be to find out why they’ve not approved you. No sense in assuming anything.
      Let us know how it goes, eh?
      I’ve had to recommend some clients to places like this, and knowing they chose to understand “current on shots” means they had them as youngsters, I’d always recommend them, and if asked if they were “current”, I’d always answer Yes!

  6. Lyne on June 12, 2013 at 8:21 am

    I have a holistic boarding kennel open since 2005 I dont ask for bordetella, I only ask that the dog as add 1 shot rabies, 1 DHPP and nothing else for the life of the dog.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on June 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      Hi Lyne!
      This is great news! I’m slowly accumulating names of smart kennel owners like you, who “get it” about immunity being long lasting from early vaccines. Would you like to be included in that list? I intend to put it up online, and you can either reply here or email me through my Contact page
      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Diane smith on June 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Dear Dr. Falconer,
    As always, thank you for caring about our animals and your wonderful blog. Since starting your program several years ago, Cosmo, our 8 yr old Cavalier King Charles, has returned to bouncing, vital health and is doing great in terms of fleas, etc. What about animal parasites in general? Should we be concerned? Is there a natural remedy to prevent canine tapeworm and other infestations?
    Thank you again,

    • Will Falconer, DVM on June 12, 2013 at 5:44 am

      Hi Diane,
      Good question. Parasites in general are pure opportunists. They only live in weakened hosts. You can bring a baggie of stool into your conventional vet any time to check on the status of worms, but I find the healthy adults repeatedly test negative. As such, I don’t see the need for adult testing throughout life.
      Tapeworms are a case in point. They are the most benign worms on the planet, rarely causing disease, and only then when they’ve really grown to tremendous numbers. The drug to get rid of them is probably more risk than the worm! I address the animal who repeatedly gets worms with a constitutional remedy until I see that they’ve lost the worms for good. Then I know their susceptibility is gone. It may take a few tries to find that remedy for that particular dog, but if we stick to it, and especially have a few other symptoms to work with, we can find the proper remedy.

  8. Chris Kilsdonk on June 3, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Dear Dr. Falconer, Thank you so much for your article on not to vaccinate for kennel cough!! It’s so informative on the information that you have optained for this article!! It really helps me in my decisions more and more NOT to vaccinate our dogs!! Or make any one else to do the same!! We have to be a defender for our animals, and information such as yours is a life saver for all four legged friends!!
    I want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to publish the article that is so vital for all animals!! Please keep on publishing more articles such as vaccinations, and healthy food options for our beloved friends, it really means so much to be able to read articles that make so much sense!! Every thing is for the medical vets, it’s so one sided, the magazines that come out never come out with opened minded options to choose from!! I’m so thankful that their is someone such as yourself to be able to speak for the animals wealfare, and give them a chance to be able to live a healthy life, without all the vaccines, and store bought food that they end up getting!! Please do more aticles that make so much more sense than what the vets come up with!!
    Chris Kilsdonk

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