As a pet lover, nothing can be more distressing than seeing your dog with a nasty cough. Luckily, even the worst-sounding coughing and hacking noises could turn out to be nothing more than kennel cough, a relatively benign infection of the respiratory system. Most dogs will pick up kennel cough at least once during their lives, and most of the time kennel cough will clear up on its own without prescription antibiotics. However, there are plenty of natural ways that you can treat kennel cough at home to lessen the symptoms and provide your dog with some relief. For keeping your dog in good health, check out these tips.
What is Kennel Cough?
While humans have the common cold, dogs have kennel cough. Its full name is Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, with its most common bacterial strain being Bordetella Bronchiseptica. The illness usually manifests itself as inflammation of the upper respiratory tract of a dog, including the larynx and trachea.
Kennel cough picked up its common name due to its highly infectious nature. Just like how the common cold can quickly spread through a daycare center, school or workplace, kennel cough can move from dog to dog in boarding kennels, at dog parks, or anywhere else where dogs come into contact with each other.
Treating Kennel Cough
As long as there are no other illnesses present, kennel cough on its own does not need prescription medication or invasive treatments and should resolve by itself within about three weeks. However, your dog is likely to feel pretty uncomfortable and fatigued during this time. Here are ten natural ways to help treat kennel cough and keep your dog comfortable while their body fights off the illness and your dog starts to recover.
Warm, humid air can greatly relieve your dog’s symptoms, loosening the mucus in their chest and providing temporary relief from their cough. A humidifier is a simple way of providing the right humid conditions for your dog; otherwise, take your dog with you into the bathroom, close the door, and run hot water in the shower for a few minutes to steam up the room. Just five or ten minutes in a steamy bathroom – under your supervision, of course, to ensure your dog doesn’t get scalded by the hot water – should provide some much-needed relief.
Your dog’s normal collar can be a source of irritation during a bout of kennel cough, placing extra strain on their neck during a coughing spell. Since your dog needs to be isolated and not go on walks anyway, it should be safe to remove your dog’s collar while they’re resting at home. If you do need to take them out or are concerned about not having identification on your dog, temporarily swap their normal collar for a harness.
Honey has many wonderful medicinal properties and is known to soothe a dry, sore throat while also providing anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antiviral benefits. Not only will honey relieve the coughing symptoms for a short time, but it can also actively boost your dog’s immune system and help to shorten the duration of the illness.
Most dogs are happy to lick honey directly from a spoon, so you won’t need your usual arsenal of tricks to get your dog to take their medicine.
Expectorant Cough Syrups
Most non-prescription expectorant cough syrups are just as effective on dogs as they are on humans. However, since cough syrups are designed for human consumption and not specifically for dogs, it is important to get the all-clear from your vet before giving cough syrup – or any human over-the-counter medication – to your dog.
Fluids, Rest and Relaxation
Rest is vitally important for the dog recovering from kennel cough. Any exertion, even just your normal daily walk, is likely to cause irritation to the airways and bring on a worsened bout of coughing.
Similarly, a dog feeling stressed or anxious may suffer from the symptoms of kennel cough for a longer period of time than is necessary. Maintaining a stress-free environment is essential to speed up your dog’s recovery as much as possible. This may mean holding off from activities that would normally worry your dog, like vacuuming or trimming their nails.
Homeopathic Remedies to Boost The Immune System
There are plenty of homeopathic remedies that can boost your dog’s immune system and give their body a stronger chance of recovering as quickly as possible. Echinacea, vitamin C, olive leaf, and colloidal silver are all common homeopathic remedies that can help your dog boost its immune system and fight the disease.
A lot has been said about the humble coconut, and now we know that organic virgin coconut oil possesses fatty acids that are antibacterial, antiviral, and amazingly able to boost the immune system of dogs and people alike. Not only will coconut oil help your dog recover quickly, but a small amount can also be given on a daily basis to keep your dog healthy and prevent reinfection.
Just like honey, most dogs love the taste of coconut oil and will be happy to lick it directly off a spoon.
Many people swear by the ability of dried licorice root to ease the symptoms of kennel cough. The easiest way to administer licorice to your dog is to create a simple tea of dried licorice root in boiling water, letting it stand until it reaches room temperature, and then stirring in some honey. One batch of tea can last in the refrigerator for several days, and dogs tend to love the taste.
Another treatment for dogs suffering from kennel cough is Rescue Remedy, the flower essence that is well known for alleviating the symptoms of anxiety in humans. While flower essences won’t cure your dog or even relieve their symptoms, what they can do is help to relax your dog and relieve symptoms of stress. Since we now know that maintaining a stress-free environment is essential to helping a dog recover from kennel cough, Rescue Remedy can help put your dog’s mind at ease.
While preventative care is not specifically treatment for kennel cough, by learning to pay attention to the signs that your dog’s immune system is weakened you could potentially ward off future re-occurrences of the illness. Understanding the status of your dog’s immune system is as simple as monitoring their overall health and wellness so that you can pick up on minor changes as soon as they occur.
By keeping a daily journal of your dog’s health, you can be vigilant about minor ailments like discharge from the eyes or ears, and even a change in odor. Being aware of your dog’s daily health will help you to administer treatments as soon as your dog shows signs of feeling unwell, which can go a long way towards reducing the overall length of symptoms.
A Word About Contagion
It is important to remember that kennel cough is an extremely contagious illness. While your dog has kennel cough, it is imperative that you keep them away from other dogs to avoid spreading the infection. Just like the common cold in humans, kennel cough quickly spreads through shared objects like water bowls and toys, and can even become airborne.
Kennel cough has an incubation period between two days and two weeks, during which time your dog will be most contagious. Since rest and relaxation are an important aspect of treating kennel cough, it should be easy enough to keep your dog isolated during this highly contagious period.
Monitor and Assess
As mentioned, kennel cough is rarely serious and will generally resolve on its own without the use of prescription medications. However, kennel cough usually occurs during a time when your dog’s immune system is weakened, so there is a chance that your dog could contract another illness at the same time. For this reason, if you feel that your dog has other symptoms in addition to the coughing and hacking noises associated with kennel cough, it is important to take them straight to the vet.
Similarly, if your dog’s kennel cough symptoms worsen, new symptoms present, your dog is particularly lethargic or is refusing food and/or water, it is likely that your dog has more than a routine case of kennel cough.
If you’re worried about your dog, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. When making the appointment, let the receptionist know that you suspect your dog has kennel cough so they can make the appropriate arrangements to keep your dog isolated from other animals in the waiting and treatment areas.
In most cases, kennel cough is not serious and does not require invasive treatments or prescription medication. However, by implementing a combination of the above natural treatments for kennel cough, you can provide your dog with some relief and lessen the duration of their symptoms. Since most dogs will pick up kennel cough at least once during their lifetime, it’s a good idea to be prepared with a list of treatment ideas so you can spring into action as soon as you start hearing your dog coughing.
James Woller is a long-time dog enthusiast and co-owner of “Release the Hounds“ and Jet Pet Resort, professional dog walking and boarding companies in Vancouver, Canada. On his days off from running his company, he enjoys learning and writing about topics that are of interest to caring pet owners.