Your dog has a dry hacking cough … and you suspect kennel cough. Here’s how to relieve his symptoms with a kennel cough treatment that’s soothing and natural.
What Is Kennel Cough?
Bordetella bronchiseptica is an airborne bacteria that’s the most common cause of kennel cough in dogs. It’s an upper respiratory tract infection much like the common cold in people. It’s self-limiting and will usually resolve on its own. It’s now formally known as canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD). Many other viruses and bacteria can also lead to kennel cough … these include canine parainfluenza, canine adenovirus and canine distemper. Kennel cough is highly contagious so you need to keep your dog away from other dogs while he has symptoms.
How Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough?
The main reason dogs get kennel cough is a weakened immune system that doesn’t fight off infection when your dog’s exposed to certain bacteria or viruses.
Outbreaks are common in shelter or boarding environments that are moist and warm, with poor ventilation, and infected dogs coming and going. But a romp in the park, a visit to the vet’s office where there’s been an infection, or a quick meeting with an infected dog on the street is enough to transmit the disease.
After exposure, your dog will show signs any time from 2 to 10 days. Once you spot kennel cough symptoms, your dog is contagious and can easily spread kennel cough to other dogs.
Symptoms Of Kennel Cough
The worst part and most noticeable symptom is the kennel cough sound. It’s a dry hacking cough that’s often constant and can be worrying. It can even sound like a cat coughing up a hairball. There might be sneezing or your dog might cough up mucus … or your dog may seem normal with just a bit of coughing.
There are other kennel cough symptoms including:
- A sound like something’s stuck in your dog’s throat
- Reduced appetite or no interest in food
- Runny nose plus watery, runny eyes. A clear discharge is okay but if it’s cloudy or discolored it could be a sign of a secondary infection.
- Lethargy, low energy
- Fever, in more serious cases
Treatment For Kennel Cough In Dogs
The best kennel cough treatment at home is to strengthen your dog’s immune system … and that helps prevent other infections and illnesses as well. If your dog gets kennel cough, these methods can also prevent it from progressing into pneumonia or other infections.
Here are 7 ways to provide kennel cough treatment at home.
Medicinal mushrooms have immune-boosting properties to support your dog’s immune system. Some have antioxidants that fight cell damage and disease, so it’s good to feed a variety of mushrooms to combine their benefits.
Reishi is important as an antiviral and antibacterial, and shiitake can soothe bronchial inflammation and help the detox process. Cordyceps support lung, liver, heart and gut health as well as being antifungal and antibacterial. Chaga is antiviral, anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants.
You can get dried mushrooms (or powder) in combinations. Make sure you buy whole fruiting mushroom bodies and not just mycelium. Mycelium is just the root part of the mushroom. It’s usually grown on grain so it’s higher in carbohydrates and lower in the beta glucans that deliver its medicinal benefits. If it’s a product packaged for humans, assume the dosing is for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight.
Probiotics contain healthy bacteria that support your dog’s gut and immune health. Beneficial bacteria discourage the growth of harmful bacteria. Include prebiotic foods like garlic, honey and mushrooms, which support and feed probiotics. Or you can buy a supplement with both pre- and probiotics.
Garlic is one of the best foods to build immune health as it contains antioxidants like vitamin A, plus sulfur and zinc, and a wide range of B vitamins to support gut health. Garlic is a powerful antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory remedy. Feed your dog fresh, organic garlic by chopping the clove and letting it sit for 10 minutes to release its medicinal properties. Then mix it into your dog’s food. Feed ⅓ tsp per 10 lbs of body weight.
RELATED: Learn more about garlic for dogs …
Manuka honey is a very potent honey because it contains natural chemicals called methylglyoxal (MGO), dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and leptosperin that give it antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral properties. As well as soothing your dog’s throat, it’s full of antioxidants and it’s a prebiotic that makes probiotics more effective.
Look for Manuka honey with a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) of 10 or more. Give Manuka honey twice a day: ½ tsp for dogs under 20 lbs, 1 tsp up to 60 lbs and 2 tsp for dogs over 60 lbs. Most dogs will lick it off the spoon.
Caution: Don’t give honey to diabetic dogs or dogs under a year old.
Rose hips are a natural source of vitamin C that’s safer than synthetic vitamin C supplements (like ascorbic acid), which can cause diarrhea. Feed 1/2 to 1 tsp of ground rose hips per cup of food.
Ginger stimulates the immune system and has strong antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Use ginger in root form by mincing it and adding it to your dog’s food. Feed ¼ tsp for miniature breeds, ½ tsp for dogs under 35 lbs, and ¾ tsp for larger dogs.
Immune Boosting Herbal Tea
This tea provides an extra immune boost, and it’s safe for all dogs including seniors and puppies 10 weeks and older.
Make a tea by steeping these ingredients for 10 minutes in hot/boiling water.
- 4 Tbsp ground rose hips
- 4 Tbsp dried echinacea
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger, or more, if your dog tolerates its strong taste
- 4 Tbsp dried chamomile
Cool, then add 1-2 tsp of tea (including the herbs) to meals for small dogs and 2-4 tbsp for large dogs.
Conventional Kennel Cough Treatment For Dogs
It’s best to avoid conventional kennel cough treatments, which are usually antibiotics like Baytril, Doxycycline and Clavamox. Like the common cold in people, kennel cough needs to run its course. Antibiotics won’t help with a viral infection … but they’ll destroy the beneficial bacteria in your dog’s gut and weaken his immune system. If your dog’s case of kennel cough seems severe, your vet can do lung x-rays, blood tests or cultures to rule out more serious disease. Otherwise, click on the link below to learn about natural antibiotics that are effective kennel cough treatments and won’t harm your dog’s gut bacteria.
RELATED: Natural antibiotics for dogs …
Kennel Cough Treatment To Avoid
Always avoid over the counter kennel cough medicines. They contain toxic ingredients that can harm your dog, even if prescribed by a veterinarian. Some “dog-friendly” cough medicines contain dextromethorphan … but it’s not recommended for dogs with liver disease, skin allergies – or chronic coughs! It can also interact with medications taken by dogs with cognitive issues. Other cough medicine ingredients like guaifensesin can have side effects like nausea and vomiting, nervousness, hallucinations, tremors, and increased heart rate.
Human cough medicines can contain acetaminophen, ibuprofen, pseudoephedrine, alcohol, artificial color, caffeine, antihistamines and xylitol … an artificial sweetener that can be deadly to dogs. The other ingredients are toxic to dogs, even in very small amounts.
RELATED: Natural cough remedies for dogs …
How Long Does Kennel Cough Last?
A healthy dog will recover in a week.
A puppy or an unhealthy dog with a compromised immune system or who already has an illness may take 1-2 months for a full recovery. Any dog with symptoms is still infectious and can spread the disease to other dogs, even a few weeks after recovery.