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Natural Remedies for Kennel Cough

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, a/k/a Bordetella and Bordetellosis, but commonly known as kennel cough, is one of the most widespread diseases among canines. Dogs that come from animal shelters, that are boarded, go to groomers, veterinary offices, and other places where dogs are in close quarters, are more prone to kennel cough. It can attack dogs of any age, but puppies and adult dogs with health issues are more susceptible. Some dogs are more susceptible to contracting the virus, and others never come down with it.

Kennel cough is similar to the common cold in humans. It is highly contagious and rarely fatal, but generally runs its course within a few days. Kennel cough is easy to recognize, even if your animal has never been infected. It is a dry, harsh, unproductive, croup-like cough that just doesn’t stop. A dog with a mild case may remain active and maintain their appetite; while a dog with a severe case could be lethargic, have fever, loss of appetite and eventually contract pneumonia.

Kennel cough is not caused solely by Bordetella bronchieptica bacteria. Numerous bacteria contribute to the infection, such as canine adenovirus, canine herpes and reovirus, but the main infection is parainfluenza. It is the combination of the various infections that cause the symptoms.

Symptoms can appear within three or four days after the dog is exposed, but sometimes it can take up to a week. The course of kennel cough usually lasts for about 10 days. The dog is still contagious and can release the virus for up to fourteen weeks, even after the symptoms are gone.

Fortunately, there are many natural ways to help your dog feel better, speed up their recovery and prevent future infections. Some veterinarians treat Bordetella with antibiotics. However, antibiotics do not effect viruses. Some veterinarians may suggest using some sort of cough remedy like *Robitussin. Do not use any medicines containing acetaminophen or caffeine for dogs. There are many herbs and natural remedies that assist with upper respiratory health and ease sore throats.

Honey is a great natural treatment that helps soothe the throat. Honey also has disinfecting, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal and antiseptic properties. These properties are extremely high in Manuka honey from New Zealand ( An average dog can be given 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of honey three to four times a day.

Coconut Oil is a multi-purpose infection fighter that contains medium-chain fatty acids that kill harmful bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses and parasites. You can give your dog 1 teaspoon of coconut oil per 10 pounds of body weight per day in divided amounts. Begin with a smaller dose and graduate. If your dog has been exposed to kennel cough, or any other infection, you can double the dose given. Sometimes the coconut oil can produce loose, greasy stool or fatigue if given too high of a dosage. Some state this is due to the detoxification products the coconut oil provides.

Mixing honey and coconut oil work great together against the kennel cough virus.

You can brew licorice tea. Combine 1 tablespoon of dried licorice root with 2 cups cold water. Bring it to a boil, remove from heat, and let stand until room temperature. Add 1 teaspoon honey to each tablespoon of licorice tea. Give a medium dog 2 tablespoons before meals, more or less for large/small dogs. The tea can be refrigerated up to five days.

Other tea remedies that can be used are blackberry leaves, elder blossom, sage leaves and thyme. Honey Gardens in Vermont, makes Apitheraphy Honey Wild Cherry Bark Syrup (, which contains honey, apple cider vinegar, wild cherry bark, elecampane root, propolis, rosehips, ginger root, licorice root, slippery elm bark and essential oils of lemon, peppermint and eucalyptus.

There are numerous “premade” remedies that can ease this horrible cough. Kennel-Koff (, made by Amber Technology, contains olive leaf, mustard seed, black seed and pau d’arco, which are infection-fighters. Natural Rearing Herbal Compound tablets (, which contains garlic, rue, sage, thyme, eucalyptus, wormwood and vegetable charcoal, can be given daily to help fight and prevent disease. Cough Drop! ( is an all-natural cough suppressant. It helps to soothe the chest, reduce swelling, open air passages, and works quick. It also acts as an immune system stimulant.

You can create your own concoction by blending essential oils such as Ravensare, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus globulus, and Spike Lavender. Dilute the essential oils in a spray bottle to mist the air around your dog. This can cease the coughing immediately and assist the dog in breathing easier. There are aromatherapy diffusers that can make this process easier (

Most boarding kennels require the dog to be vaccinated for Bordetella. However, there are so many strains of Bordetella, and there is not one vaccine to protect the dog against all strains. Even if the dog is vaccinated, it can still contract the virus. There are two types of vaccinations used. One is intranasal and the other is injectable. Dr. Stacey Hershman, a holistic veterinarian in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York states, “The intranasal vaccine is highly effective and very safe since it is not systemic but goes down the nose into the throat. I do not recommend the injectable vaccine since it can cause negative side effects like lethargy, fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. I never vaccinate animals more than once a year for kennel cough, and then only if they are going to a boarding kennel. Kennel cough is not fatal in adult dogs, who usually board, therefore it would be over-vaccinating in my opinion to do it more than once a year. Healthy, strong immune systems are resistant and do not catch it, which is another reason not to vaccinate unless the dog is going to a kennel that requires it.”

One way to help prevent exposure to Kennel Cough is to control your dog’s exposure to other animals. Since this is quite difficult to do, you can help by disinfecting the air and surfaces surrounding your dog. The best defense is a strong immune system, which can be reached with exercise, supplements and proper nutrition.

*Robitussin should not be used for productive coughs or coughs that are moist. Robitussin should only be used for dry, persistent, unproductive coughs.

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