Exercising a Dog With Kennel Cough – Should You Exercise?

If you are reading this article, chances are your dog has kennel cough and you are wondering whether exercising dogs with kennel cough is good or bad?

Kennel cough is not life-threatening, but all that hacking and coughing can wear your dog out, so the best thing for them is to rest as excessive exercise will make the symptoms worse and take them longer to recover.

Kennel cough is also contagious, so visits to the dog park are definitely a no go. The good news: there are a few gentle exercises that you can introduce when your pup is on the road to recovery that won’t tire them out

Keep reading to find out all about kennel cough and what exercises you can do with your dog that won’t make it worse.

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a highly contagious upper respiratory infection of dogs caused by the bacterium bordetella bronchiseptica and less frequently by the parainfluenza virus. These viruses weaken the immune system of a dog and attack cells in the respiratory tract a bit like human colds. It usually lasts about two weeks but can sometimes linger.

Can your dog catch kennel cough from other dogs?

Most dogs will catch kennel cough at some point either by direct contact with other pups at dog shows, meet-ups or when in boarding kennels or even breathing in the virus particles whilst out walking as the germs are air bourne. It is can also be transmitted with bacteria on food and water bowls, toys or other objects. So never let your dog eat from another dog’s bowl and get your dog checked if they are showing signs and have been in contact with other dogs.

Kennel Cough Symptoms

Unsurprisingly coughing is the most common symptom in pets with the virus. However, dog owners may notice other symptoms like a runny nose, lethargy, sneezing, reduced appetite, and a slight fever apart from the hacking cough.

Treatment & Remedies

Most dogs fight the infection without any need for treatment; however, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics for dogs with a weakened immune system or anti-inflammatory medication so your pooch is more comfortable. At home, you could try using a humidifier and use a harness instead of a collar so as not to put more pressure on the throat.

Kennel cough is not usually serious but can occasionally result in bronchopneumonia in puppies or older dogs. Your vet can always set your mind at rest if you are worried and the symptoms are not improving.

Is There a Kennel Cough Vaccine?

A vaccine can help stop the spread of this disease, but as there are different strains, like antibiotics, it isn’t always 100% effective. Your canine companion will need to be vaccinated annually and many boarding kennels will not accept your pooch without proof of the vaccine.

Exercising a Dog with Kennel Cough – 5 Activities You Can do in the House

A dog infected with kennel cough will likely be off-colour for a couple of weeks, the same as when we get a cold. The best way to fight the nasty cough is sleep. If Fido usually sleeps with other pets, give him a bed in another room to not be disturbed.

Other dogs are more lively and you would hardly know they were ill, but it’s still important to keep them indoors, so while the walks are off-limits, below are some gentle exercises you can do with them when they are feeling up to it.

Cavaletti – Your dog will enjoy these exercises and Cavaletti is excellent for improving their flexibility and proprioception. Simply arrange a few wooden poles on the floor and encourage your pet to walk over them. There are many benefits of doing cavaletti. It strengthens muscles used in limb flexion and increases their range of motion, plus it won’t aggravate the cough.

Puzzle games – Mental stimulation is crucial for dogs who are not getting their regular exercise, so a few pet puzzle games are a great way for Fido to get a brain workout without tiring themselves out. Just fill with some low fat treats and let them get on with problem-solving.

Balance boards – Wobble or balance boards have become very popular recently and for a good reason; they improve balance, increase core strength and can even give your pet more confidence. You could do a few exercises on one or two balance boards encouraging your pooch to stretch and clear its airways or even put a bowl of steaming water nearby to make breathing easier.

Hide and Seek – If you play hide and seek with your dog, you’ll know how much they love finding you, so why not play it at home too. Hide behind the curtains or door and call your pet from another room to come and find you perhaps with the encouragement of a tasty treat.

Nose work – A dog with kennel cough can’t go on walks for long periods, so the next best thing is to get them using their nose, hide some treats under plastic cups, empty tin cans or even a snuffle mat and let your pet seek them out. Just make sure no other dogs come into contact with the objects when you have finished.


Is it OK to walk a dog with kennel cough?

No, not only will it make them cough more, this respiratory infection is highly contagious and it’s also air bourne, so even letting them in the garden can be a risk to neighbours pets.

Does kennel cough get worse with exercise?

Too much exercise or over-excitement can worsen the infection; yes, your pup will need lots of rest and plenty of TLC.

Can humans catch kennel cough?

Kennel cough can affect other animals such as cats, horses, rabbits and guinea pigs and it’s extremely rare, but yes, dogs can spread kennel cough to humans, especially if they already have a compromised immune system.

Is honey OK for dogs with symptoms?

Yes, honey is safe for dogs in small amounts and can soothe your dog’s throat; check with your veterinarian if you are unsure as a steam treatment may work just as well and is fewer in calories.

Final Thoughts

It is best to avoid any strenuous exercise with your dog until they have gotten over the virus. Because it does take a toll on their lungs and throat, it’s also essential to avoid other dogs to prevent kennel cough from spreading. They can inhale the respiratory secretions and your dog will be infectious for a couple of weeks.

During this time, your dog will not be able to go for walks, so as we’ve discussed above, there are a few gentle fitness routines that will not exacerbate the cough and we hope they may even lift your best friends spirits and in a couple of weeks, they should be back to normal.

It may be beneficial to add the kennel cough vaccine into your dog’s vaccine schedule; whilst not wholly effective, it can significantly reduce the chances of Fido catching a cough.

John Devlin

Blogger and owner of George and Henry. Two gorgeous goldens that couldn’t be more different. One is a dream loving and caring, and his sibling is as naughty as can be. When I am not blogging about dogs, I love watching sport and travelling with the family.
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