Because kennel cough can cause scary illness in shelter animals, it is a devastating disease for all dogs, but this isn’t always the case. It is important to know how dogs get kennel cough, how to prevent it, common symptoms, and also how to treat it to ensure your dog stays healthy.
- know how dogs get kennel cough
- know how to protect your dog from kennel cough
- give your dog herbal antivirals at the first sign of cough
- feed fresh food
- rush for antibiotics if your dog doesn’t feel or act sick
- lock your dog up away from fresh air
- panic if you have more than one dog
Kennel cough infection has two phases. First, a virus makes the dog sick and start coughing. It’s a very characteristic cough – with a hack at the end. Sometimes, phlegm will come out if the coughing causes enough irritation. Once the throat is sore, the bacteria (bordetella bronchiseptica) that normally live in the throat can cause a secondary bacterial infection. This is when dogs get fevers and become sick. These dogs need medical treatment.
You have three choices: don’t play with other dogs, build a strong immune system, and/or have your dog vaccinated against kennel cough. Being an only dog is easy, unless your dog needs professional grooming or needs to board at a kennel that requires the vaccine. A strong immune system comes from eating the best foods: meat-based, no by-products or dyes. Ideally, the best food includes real food. The best vaccines are in the nose (intranasal) as that gets right to the immune system that needs to protect from viruses.
You can give your dog Echinacea, a classical herbal formula called Yin Chiao, or any number of other great immune boosting herbal blends. Anything that strengthens the immune system helps to fight off a virus so the bacteria never have a chance to invade and cause real illness. Dogs have really good luck when prescribed Yin Chiao. A few dogs will get so irritated from coughing that coughing makes more coughing and no one gets any sleep. Rarely, these dogs should be given cough suppressants, but normally that is a bad idea as the goal of coughing is to get the junk out of the lungs. Suppressing the cough leaves the junk in the lungs, breeding bacteria – this is not our goal.
Fresh food means the real stuff – meat and vegetables like we eat. The point is that the immune system needs the freshest inputs to be the strongest. We humans recover from our colds when we have fresh soup, rather than prepackaged foods. The same for our dogs. The fresher the better. And, they deserve fresh foods anyway – that’s why we care, they are our four-legged children.
Immunity may last a long time. Unlike injectable vaccines where more research has been done into the duration of immunity, not much has been studied into how long the kennel cough vaccine lasts. Once a dog is vaccinated for kennel cough, it seems to have longer protection than a year, although there is no hard evidence to support that. There is, however, a building body of knowledge that too many vaccines damage the immune system. How the intranasal kennel cough vaccine plays into this is not known, but less is better. Recently, some kennels and groomers have pushed their clients to get the kennel cough vaccine every 6 months. This is excessive.
Just like us humans, when we have a cold, antibiotics aren’t going to do anything to fight off the infection. Other than fluids and immune system support, time has to help us get rid of our virus. Same thing for our dog friends: fluids, immune support and time will make the virus go away. It’s when the patient becomes tired, isn’t peppy, ears are hot and not wanting to eat that we have a problem. This is when the bacteria that live in the throat take the chance to move in and cause an infection. This is when it’s time to use antibiotics. Just as when human colds turn into pneumonia.
While we would prefer if your dog keep her kennel cough cooties to herself, she needs fresh air to supply healthy oxygen to healing lungs. While we are used to bundling up when we are sick, we need fresh air in our bundle. Same for our dogs.
Just because one dog gets kennel cough doesn’t mean the others will. And, by the time you discover one has kennel cough, the others will already have been exposed. It can take up to 14 days after exposure to start coughing. By then, the other dogs have been exposed. So, the best thing to do is start all dogs on antivirals, give them lots of fresh foods and fluids and hope the others already have immunity. Not all dogs will get sick, just as not all humans catch colds.
Usually, kennel cough is a self-limiting, viral infection, just like the human cold. And, just like our cold, there is no medication to make it go away faster. But, if left untreated, and the immune system is weak, our colds and our dog’s kennel cough can linger and become more serious. Fever and laying around is time to go to the vet. Otherwise, boost that immune system and avoid places where kennel cough is more likely to be present: where there are lots of dogs.