Symptoms & Cures for Kennel Cough

by Betty Lewis
A bit of honey is a natural remedy to help your dog's cough.

A bit of honey is a natural remedy to help your dog's cough.

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People have cold and flu season, but anytime is kennel cough season for a dog. You'll know he's caught this bug by his honking cough. Kennel cough will clear up on its own over time, but if your dog is suffering a particularly bad spell of it, or that cough just won't go away, he should see a vet.

Catching the Cough

The main culprits behind kennel cough are the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica and the viruses canine parainfluenza 3 and canine adenovirus Type 2. Other agents can cause kennel cough, including canine herpes virus, parainfluenza and reovirus. All your dog has to do is breathe in one of the infectious agents, and within a week you know, as he'll begin to cough.

Honk for the Symptoms

If your dog's sounding more like a goose than a dog, he's exhibiting the classic symptom of kennel cough: the honking, dry cough, sounding like he's going to cough up a lung. During his coughing spells, he may hack up a bit of phlegm or some foam or liquid. His throat likely will be irritated, so don't be surprised if he throws up his dinner if he eats it too quickly. Kennel cough doesn't usually affect a dog's disposition, however if your dog's been sick a while or he has a particularly severe case of it, he may show signs of illness, including depression, loss of appetite, a runny nose and redness around the eyes. A dog who shows those signs for more than a day should see his vet immediately.

Treating Kennel Cough

Though your dog may act as though nothing's wrong, it's best to try to minimize his physical activity so his symptoms don't become worse. Like the common cold, kennel cough is usually self-limiting and your dog likely will recover on his own after a week or two. However, you can help him feel better with some home remedies. A teaspoon of honey three or four times a day will soothe his throat. Your vet can inform you of the proper dose of vitamin C and pediatric Robitussin to get him on the road to recovery. Providing a little steam room for your pal will free his airways; simply get a good hot shower going, turning it off when the room is filled with steam. If your dog spends about 20 minutes in your homemade sauna, he'll likely feel better. If his cough goes into a third week, or if you see more severe symptoms, visit your vet, who may prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

Preventing Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is so common that many boarding facilities require vaccination against it as a condition of entry. Depending on the vaccination, it can be given orally, in the nose as a mist, or injected. The downside to the vaccination is it protects against only a few of the agents triggering kennel cough. As well, it won't treat an active case of the infection. The best prevention is to control who your dog is exposed to, though it's difficult to know what dog does or doesn't harbor kennel cough since he can remain contagious two weeks after he's infected. Whether you choose to vaccinate your dog or not, you can't go wrong feeding your dog a healthy, nutritious diet and providing him plenty of exercise. A strong immune system is his best weapon against kennel cough.

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