Home Remedies for Kennel Cough: What Symptoms to Look For & How to Treat Your Pup

KENNEL COUGH, OR BORDETELLA IS A PESKY INFECTION SIMILAR TO A CANINE COLD, WHICH USUALLY LASTS FOR ONE TO TWO WEEKS.

It can be picked up by a pup who’s in close proximity to another dog who’s infected either in close quarters such as a boarding facility, or at dog parks, dog beaches or other areas where lots of canines congregate together. It’s very common for kennels to require dogs be vaccinated against "kennel cough" before they are allowed in. There are two main reasons for this:

  • Reducing the risk that a dog will bring kennel cough into the facility and spread it to other dogs.
  • Reducing the likelihood that a dog will acquire kennel cough if someone else brought it in.

Overall, it’s a sound policy, but it’s far from 100% effective and it needs to be part of an overall kennel infection control program to work. Relying solely on vaccination to prevent kennel cough is a weak approach that can ultimately fail, particularly if other infection control practices are poor or if vaccination protocols are illogical.

Why isn’t the vaccine 100% effective?

1) Kennel cough is a syndrome, not a specific disease. It can be caused by many different viruses and bacteria, often in combination. Kennel cough vaccines are typically targeted against Bordetella bronchiseptica +/- canine parainfluenza, two important causes of kennel cough, but not the only causes.

2) No vaccine is 100% effective. Vaccines help reduce the risk of illness, but they don’t completely eliminate it. Some vaccines are better than others, and some animals respond better to vaccines than others.

3) Timing is another issue. One of the weak points of many kennel protocols is the requirement that the dog be vaccinated "before entry," or within a certain number of weeks or months. The problem with this is vaccines are not immediately effective. What often happens is people decide to board their animal at the last minute or realize the night before that they need their dog vaccinated, so the vaccine gets given a day (or less) before kenneling. The intranasal kennel cough vaccine (squirted up the nose) takes a few (3-5) days to be effective, and the injectable vaccine takes even longer (a week or more). Vaccination very soon before boarding, particularly for a dog that has never been vaccinated against kennel cough before, is unlikely to result in protection from infection by the time of boarding.

Remember:

  • It’s not 100% effective.
  • It doesn’t negate the need for a good infection control program.
  • It needs to be given at an appropriate time to be effective.

Everything You Need to Know about Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is an airborne upper respiratory infection that attacks the bronchioles and the trachea. Multiple viruses and bacteria (in some cases, simultaneously), such as mycoplasma and the canine adenovirus, can cause this highly contagious disease – the presence of another dog is enough to transmit the infection.

In most cases, however, the bacterium named Bordetella Bronchiseptica 122is at the roots of kennel cough. As it travels through the respiratory system, it attaches itself to tissue devoid of mucus coating and infects the larynx and the trachea. Since the loss of mucus coating generally occurs in poorly ventilated areas, such as kennels and shelters, the disease bears the “kennel cough name.”

Most Ordinary Kennel Cough Symptoms

Specific symptoms scream “kennel cough” more than others do, such as:

  • Persistent, intense cough, often accompanied by a “hacking” sound
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Eye discharge
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Labored breathing
  • Fever

Many describe the kennel cough sound as a honking or a reverse sneeze. Some dogs also experience sneezing, watery eyes, or a runny nose. Dogs with kennel cough typically maintain normal energy levels and appetite. While playfulness and high energy levels are the sign of a healthy pup, it’s best to limit strenuous activity until his cough goes away since excitement and exercise can increase coughing and irritate your pup’s airway.

Although these symptoms do not necessarily put your dog’s life in danger, they do however take their toll on its general well-being and peace of mind. For that reason, many dog parents look for the easiest, most straightforward solution to kennel cough. This beneficial intention to speed up the healing process frequently translates into vaccination. However, is the kennel cough vaccine the safest way to approach this disease?

Natural, Homeopathic Remedies

Many milder cases of Kennel Cough can be treated at home with herbs and homeopathics, under the guidance of a holistic veterinarian. A trip to the vet may be necessary for persistent cases lasting more than a couple of weeks, or where the dog becomes weak with a loss of appetite or any other signs of discomfort. Stress can make a dog more susceptible, so it’s a good idea to boost up the immune system prior to the occurrence of a stressful situation, if you can. Immune system support is also important when Kennel Cough occurs.

  1. Herbal immune-system enhancers include Vitamin C, Echinacea, Olive Leaf and Astragalus. Colloidal silver is another excellent supplement for immune system support.
  2. Garlic is a great addition to the diet of dogs suffering with Kennel Cough. Peel some garlic cloves and place them in a glass jar. Cover with a few good lugs of organic olive oil and leave to infuse for 24 hours. Add a few drops to each meal.
  3. Organic Unrefined / Virgin Coconut Oil also possesses amazing immune-enhancing properties. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids that are antiviral and antibacterial (as well as many other benefits). A dosage of about 1 to 2 teaspoons of coconut oil per 10 pounds of body weight per day can be divided into your dog’s meals to help combat Kennel Cough. Half this dosage can be used for maintenance of long term health. Use slightly less if any signs of loose stool occur.
  4. Raw Honey is a great natural treatment that helps soothe the throat. Raw Honey also has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-fungal properties. A 30 to 50 lbs dog can be given about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of honey three to four times a day. Adjust this amount up or down depending on the size of your dog.
  5. Homeopathic remedies for Kennel Cough include Drosera for a dry, hacking cough and violent coughing spells. The throat feels ticklish when Drosera is indicated, and pressure to the neck (such as from a collar) can trigger a bout of coughing. The cough may also be worse when lying down.
  6. Aconite is useful in the very early stages, when signs of kennel cough (coughing, hacking as though something is caught in the throat), first appear.
  7. Rumex Crispus is helpful for a cough associated with tickling in the throat, and which tends to be dry and persistent.
  8. Spongia Tosta is most helpful for croupy, barking coughs which tend to improve with eating and drinking warm things but get worse from cold drinks. Spongia is indicated for a cough that startles the dog from sleep.

Conclusion

Here at Volhard, we believe that being proactive is the best way to keep your dog healthy. Eating a nutritious, fresh, species appropriate diet is the basis for good health. Much like the human cold virus, the dog’s body is typically able to fight off the illness without medical intervention. For this reason, kennel cough treatment is often a “wait and see” approach. A lot of times, if you see your veterinarian, they might treat it symptomatically and nothing more. This might look like calming down the cough so your dog feels better, but letting the rest of the potential disease process run its course. There is no one kennel cough medicine, but your vet might prescribe a cough suppressant to help alleviate your dog’s discomfort.

If symptoms persist and your vet does decide your dog could use a more aggressive treatment plan for her kennel cough, antibiotics can help. It’s important for pet owners to remember that not all cases of kennel cough require antibiotics, for two reasons. First their case may be viral so antibiotics won’t help. Second, your pet may not need it at this point in time. Ready to enhance the diet of your furry companion? Feel free to contact us or check out our blog