Very few dogs go through their lives without catching kennel cough (an upper respiratory infection most commonly caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria) at least once. While this highly contagious, airborne disease can cause awfully uncomfortable symptoms (from a hacking cough and lethargy, to vomiting and a complete loss of appetite,) in the vast majority of cases, after a few days to a couple of weeks, it goes away as quickly as it started.
However, for some dogs (especially those whose immune system is compromised, due to age or other, unrelated conditions,) it can turn into very serious, often life-threatening illnesses, like bronchitis or pneumonia. Dogs should receive their Bordetella boosters at least once a year; those who are more fragile, or are more likely to be exposed to the disease (in daycare, at the dog park, or in a home they share with newly rescued canine friends,) can largely benefit from a vaccination every six months.
Needless to say, if your dog does catch kennel cough, you should make an appointment for him with his veterinarian, who will most likely subscribe an antibiotic treatment to make sure that no secondary infection develops.
Until your dog gets over this nasty illness, there are several simple steps you can take, to help him. As it is with the case with any home remedy, you may want to consult your veterinarian before starting to use any or all of the suggestions in this article, and stop as soon as you notice any undesirable reaction.
Nutri-Cal by Tomlyn
Nutri-Cal (manufactured by Tomlyn) is a high-calorie, highly nutritious paste, packed with the extra vitamins and other supplements your dog with kennel cough, needs. Most dogs like its taste, and if you put it on a spoon, they will simply lick it off. If your dog isn’t a fan, or he has completely lost his appetite, you can grab a medicine syringe from the baby aisle at your local drug store, and syringe the paste into his mouth. Nutri-Cal is available at most pet stores (for around $10 a tube,) and from several online merchants (oftentimes at even better prices.)
When you were a child and came down with a bad cold, there’s a good chance your mother gave you some honey to soothe your throat. It does the exact same thing for dogs with kennel cough. The illness is almost always accompanied by a disturbing, hacking, unproductive cough. It isn’t only heartbreaking to hear, but can cause an upset stomach and/or vomiting, making your canine best friend even weaker. A lot of dogs like the sweet taste of honey and will willingly lick it off of a spoon or your finger. They only need a little, a few times a day, between hacking sessions.
While baby food would certainly not provide your dog with the necessary nutrition they need on the long run, it is a great addition to have around, for emergencies. When sick with kennel cough, it’s not only your dog’s appetite, but also his sense of smell, that can be compromised. Choose a jar of meat-rich, natural baby food with no additives, and feed him small portions every few hours. Do not overdo it, as it may upset his stomach. If he is willing to eat it, you can try mixing it with small kibbles. Alternatively, you can try feeding him the stinkiest wet cat food you can find; it can smell almost nauseating to humans, but that may be just the extra aroma he needs.
Pepto-Bismol is safe and effective for dogs with stomach problems. Vomiting – caused by the hacking cough or phlegm swallowed – or a loss of appetite are the last things your dog struggling with kennel cough, needs. The recommended dosage is one teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weigh, as often as every four to six hours. (Please take note that you should never give Pepto-Bismol to cats!) There is little to no chance that your dog will willingly take it, due to its strange taste, so this is where a baby medical syringe comes in handy. If your dog is vomiting, you have to make sure that he isn’t getting dehydrated. If he isn’t drinking, grab a bottle of Pedialyte, and keep syringing it into his mouth as often as possible. To make sure he isn’t dehydrated, you can use the so-called “tenting test” – pull up some skin around your dog’s neck, and watch if it is losing its elasticity and stays in a “tented” position. If you suspect he is getting severely dehydrated, you need to take him to the vet’s immediately, for he may need IV fluids.
As long as you have a shower and a bathroom with a door, you have your own sauna! Turn on your shower on the hottest possible setting, close the door, and wait until the entire bathroom is filled with hot steam. Sit in the steam with your dog for up to 10-15 minutes a time, several times a day. It will help clear his airways, and – if he is struggling with a productive cough – free up the mucus. When in there, you can also use the technique called coupage on him (you can watch a video of it here), especially while he’s coughing.