Hola Amigos!!! Ah yes, man’s best muchacho. You know, it’s actually quite distressing that this phrase refers more to dogs instead of your real human mates.
But when you really think about it, no dog’s going to stab you in the back, steal all your money, sleep with your fiancée and do you wrong – that’s all Homo Sapiens baby.
Worst case scenario; a bored mutt will just chew up a few of your left shoes. And like all great pals, any harm done towards you by your loyal tail-wager will be purely accidental or unintentional. Unfortunately, it’s in this regard that man’s best friend evolves into your entire family’s worst nightmare.
No, no, I’m not talking about rabies, ticks, fleas, or all those other parasites – those have all been effectively reduced if not completely eradicated in today’s hygienic homes. No, today we’ll be looking at what could possibly be the equivalent of influenza, whopping cough, or bronchitis for dogs.
Only in this case, the cough takes a much uglier turn since it can infect humans too. So watch out all you pooch lovers, because you just waltzed into Olivia’s ultimate fleabag guide to everything you need to know about Kennel Cough.
What Is Kennel Cough?
Also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough is an infection of the upper respiratory system for dogs. Like the common cold in humans, the cough can be highly contagious and can have an array of different causes and origins. Before we get to the symptoms and causes, it’s worth noting why the disease is called kennel cough.
Unlike cats which can get terribly anti-social and introversive, dogs are the complete opposite. You’re likely to find more areas where dogs congregate than almost any other animal in the planet.
From dog parks and dog shows all the way to daycare facilities, pounds and kennels, all these are places where dogs commonly contract kennel cough. They spread it round through coughing airborne droplets, direct contact, or even contaminated surfaces such as food bowls.
The rate at which kennel cough spreads can be almost 100% in animal shelters and kennels – hence the name. But not to worry!
Although the condition sounds severe and terrible, it’s not all that bad. It’s a highly treatable condition even in pups under the age of 6 months. In fact, some adult dogs even show immunity while others recover on their own without any treatment.
So, how do you know it’s kennel cough and not some other respiratory illness?
Symptoms Of Kennel Cough
The classic, telltale sign of kennel cough is usually a forceful, persistent cough. If you’re keen, you’ll notice the cough is different from the normal reverse sneeze dogs do when irritated. So, how exactly does a coughing dog sound like?
Well, kennel cough usually sounds like a hacking noise, as if something is stuck at the back of Fido’s throat. It’s something remise of a goose honk only with more baritone.
The cough can be either dry and hoarse or severely productive and often followed by a swallowing, gagging motion. Let’s just say you’ll know the combination of a cough, sneeze, retch, gasp and wheeze when you hear it.
Besides the cough, you may also notice some of the following symptoms in your canine.
- Lethargy and overall body fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Persistent coughing and sneezing
- Runny nose or eye discharge
What Causes Kennel Cough?
Like I said earlier, the causes of kennel cough can be as varied and as numerous as those of the common cold. But while there are many causative agents, you can always bet that there’s a universally uniting factor.
In this case, it’s the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica that’s responsible for about 70 percent of all cases in the US. The rest can be attributed to the canine parainfluenza virus and canine coronavirus to a lesser extent.
But no matter the cause, it’s the transmission that you really have to watch out for. Kennel cough can be spread in three major ways.
- Through the Air – Kennel cough is primarily an airborne disease. So when an infected dog sneezes, barks and coughs, it releases thousands of contaminants in the air. Any other canine that inhales these contaminants will no doubt be infected.
- Direct and Indirect Contact – This is where dog owners really have to watch out. Be very careful who (or whom) your pets associate with. Even an innocent nose-down in the dog park by an interested pup could pass down kennel cough instantly. Touching noses, sniffing butts, drinking from the same water bowl – all potentially infectious situations.
Prevention And Treatment For Kennel Cough
Kennel cough is a highly contagious condition. So when it comes to prevention measures, the knife cuts both ways. This is what I’m talking about – If you think your dog might have the condition, then prevention is as easy as keeping your furry friend away from other animals as you and your vet treat the little guy. But like I said, that’s the easy part.
The hard part is keeping your canine pets free of kennel cough for the rest of their naturally peppy lives. The good news is, there are plenty of different forms of vaccines for kennel cough.
Some are injected, others are oral while a small percentage is delivered as a nasal mist. The bad news is that these vaccines do not always guarantee protection against kennel cough. What’s more, they have to be administered once a year and at least every six months for dogs in high risk areas.
All in all, the best form of prevention involves keeping animal contact to a minimum. This means being very careful who you chose to be your dog walker, groomer, caretaker, and so forth. But if your dog frequents high risk area such as airport quarantines, dog parks and shows, then it’s better to keep up with vaccinations.
Treating Kennel Cough
Stay with me now my fellow dog lovers, there’s a lot of hope at the end of the doggie tunnel.
Unlike other severe conditions such as arthritis and strokes that really cut short a dog’s life, kennel cough is literally but a mere cough. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a totally treatable condition even at its more severe stages.
Typically, the treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms. For milder cases, no medications are necessary since the self limiting disease will run its course just like the early onset of a common cold. Just use humidifiers and a harness instead of collar to avoid irritating the throat.
But if the disease does not clear in 7 to 14 days, then medical treatment is recommended. Your vet might give Fido some antibiotics to treat bacterial infections as well as cough suppressants to combat non productive coughs.
NSAIDs also work to cut down fever and inflammation of the neck and throat. But the last thing we want is do dose out furry family members with steroids and antibiotics. C’mon, I’ll show you how to treat your loyal pets with the care and respect they deserve.
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How Do Essential Oils Help With Kennel Cough
One of the main reasons why you want to treat kennel cough as soon as it rears its ugly head is because it can be very contagious. Sure, many vets will be quick to recommend getting the bordetella vaccine for your dog (the way a coffin maker recommends the biggest one) in the name of preventing it.
But even for dogs, a vaccine is still a weak or inactive form of the disease. So you may want to forgo subjecting your furry friends to these toxic mixes and choose a safer, all natural route.
Whether for prevention measures or treatment, essential oils have been helping humans treat respiratory ailments for years now. So why not give your beloved pet the same natural oil remedies that have been working for royal pets since early Egypt?
Essential oils are ideal for treating kennel cough because not only do they have an abundance of medicinal properties, but they also work naturally to heal your pets from within without any side effects.
What’s more, the oils can be sneaked into your dogs respiratory system and combat infection without your intelligent mutts even realizing!
9 Best Essential Oils For Kennel Cough
Known to possess antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties, Oregano essential oil is probably the top oil to have for treating the onset of kennel cough and other respiratory issues in your dog.
Phenols contained in oregano oil such as carvacrol and thymol are a natural remedy against harmful microbes and bacteria such as Bordetella bronchiseptica which cause kennel cough.
All you have to do is put some water in the spray bottle, add three drops of oregano oil in the water and then spray your dog. The oil will eliminate any bacteria within the area. This oil also enhances the breath of your dog and promptly cures kennel cough when used consistently.
Consider this to be a safer and milder cousin of tea tree essential oil, which can be toxic for dogs in high doses.
Niaouli essential oil is a powerful antimicrobial agent as well as a potent antihistamine. So, it not only fights kennel cough but also tackles seasonal allergies and secondary infections, be they of the skin or of the respiratory system.
The sweet and fresh scent of the oil is mild enough to agree with most canine patients. Plus, its expectorant qualities help to remove the buildup of phlegm from the respiratory tract and the lungs.
Niaouli is best administered using a vaporizer or diffuser – I’ll tell you why in the recipes segment.
Lemon essential oil is one of the most powerful cleansers in nature. It also happens to be an extremely effective detox agent.
Put these properties together and you have the perfect ingredient to rid your pooch’s lungs of the toxins generated by the bacteria as well as the critters themselves.
Therapeutically, clove essential oil has antiviral and antibacterial properties that are helpful in managing some of the symptoms of kennel cough.
The best way to make sure your dog doesn’t get put off by the taste is to mix 1 drop in a tablespoon of coconut oil and then add the mixture into the dog’s meal. More on that in the recipe segment.
Ginger contains some antiseptic properties which can be put to good use in combating the germs that cause kennel cough. In addition to managing respiratory infections, ginger essential oil also cures intestinal infections in dogs.
That’s why it’s a good idea to mix ginger oil with your dog’s meal to maintain a healthy digestive system and to boost immunity. Dilute ginger essential oil by adding 3 drops to a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and add 2 drops of this blend to your dog’s food, once a day until the symptoms subside. Use once every week subsequently to keep your furry friend’s immune and respiratory systems healthy.
Eucalyptus oil comes in different chemical components. It is commonly used by pet parents to combat parasites such as fleas and ticks due to its strong smell and unrivaled pest elimination properties.
Recently, researchers have proved that eucalyptus oil is an excellent remedy for kennel cough. One of the more noticeable properties has to be its anti-inflammatory nature which brings down inflammation of your dog’s neck and throat. It also has antiviral properties which help in combating other viral infections.
Adding a little cinnamon oil to the diet of your sick dog will not only increase the dog’s appetite, but also kill off any harmful bacteria in the food.
At the same time, the antiviral properties of cinnamon oil have the innate ability to break down phlegm in your dog’s throat and allow for easier breathing.
And as a bonus, cinnamon has been shown to augment the freshness of your dog’s breath which is more often than not affected by kennel cough. Besides supplementing it in food, cinnamon oil can be administered in vaporizers just like eucalyptus oil.
Adding a little cardamom oil to the diet of your sick dog will not only increase the dog’s appetite and eliminate nausea but also kill off any harmful bacteria in the food. At the same time, the antiviral properties of cardamom oil have the innate ability to break down phlegm in your dog’s throat and allow for easier breathing. Cardamom oil can be administered orally and through a vaporizer. When using orally, use the same dilution rate and quantity as for ginger oil and when using in the vaporizer, use the instructions for eucalyptus EO.
This gentle warming oil will provide your four legged pal with just enough soothing heat to tackle the back and chest ache brought on by incessant bouts of coughing.
Plus, the essential oil boasts of expectorant and antibacterial properties, which help to clear the respiratory system of accumulated fluids and the critters that cause all the trouble.
In addition to these, you can also use lavender, helichrysum, German chamomile and peppermint essential oils to treat kennel cough and the problems associated with it. Along with essential oils, you may also want to consider an infused carrier oil.
Coconut Oil For Kennel Cough
While not really an essential oil, coconut carrier oil might just be your best bet in the fight against kennel cough. You’d be surprised how many ailments and doggy diseases you could thwart with some good old coconut oil. That’s because the oil contains antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-viral components which help in speeding up your pups recovery from respiratory issues. Just one teaspoonful every morning is enough to manage a wide range of kennel cough symptoms. The great thing with coconut is that the duration of therapy with this oil is not limited by the dosage. You can administer coconut oil to your dog until it fully recovers and keep following a regular oil infused meal regimen.
Best Herbs For Kennel Cough
The best herbs for kennel cough are rosemary, garlic and cloves/cinnamon. Crush 3-4 cloves of garlic, a handful of rosemary leaves and 4-5 cloves in a mortar. You don’t need a paste so a few second of bashing with the pestle should get the job done. Remove the mixture into a glass jar and pour in 1.5 cups of extra virgin olive oil in it.
Close the lid of the jar and place the container on the window sill in such a way that it gets exposed to sunlight. Allow the rays of the sun to gently and naturally heat the contents of the jar, thus helping to release the bioactives from the herbs into the carrier oil. Let the jar stand undisturbed through the night after a full day of sun exposure.
In the morning, filter out the botanicals and store the oil under refrigeration. Use 3-5 drops of the oil in your dog’s food everyday till symptoms persist and then 1-2 times each week to give your pooch the immune boost that it needs
Best Essential Oil Recipes For Kennel Cough
Recipe 1: Quarantine kennel bomb for kennel cough
We’ll start with a recipe that’s not only very dear to me, but one that also addresses the disease with the magnitude it deserves. Having worked in dog rescue taking strays off the crowded streets back when I was coming up, you can imagine all the horrors I saw.
From mean, massive rabid mongrels to heart wrenching, emancipated little pups – just broke my heart finding the little guys in this state. But it always put a smile on my face when we treated the furry fellas and found them new homes with loving families. If you’re wondering whether I love animals, you couldn’t be wrong.
Anyway, one of the issues we had to treat (besides worms) was kennel cough. Not too surprising given the overcrowded nature of the shelters (we do try). And apart from some medication we bought, there was a lovely mom and pop food shop that would always donate a couple bottles of their excess essential oils for the fleas, pests and odor management.
So by combining that age old kennel blend with my current knowledge of the canine respiratory system, I’ve perfected a big boy’s recipe meant for and dedicated to all the animal shelters trying to do good out there.
Here’s what you’ll need
- Oregano essential oil
- Eucalyptus essential oil
- Lavender essential oil
- Lemon essential oil
- Tea Tree essential oil
- Coconut Carrier oil
- Spray Bottle
Like I said, this formula is meant for kennels and families with many dogs. So as you likely guessed, it’s going to be all inclusive and not as general as we might be used to.
The first thing you want to do is fill a bucket with hot water and add 5 drops of each essential oil to it. Swish it around to get the oils mixed in and get ready to clean. It’s this super water that you’re going to use to clean all the dogs feeding and drinking bowls, toys, beddings, and surroundings to get rid of any kennel cough bacteria. Don’t allow the dog into the treated area for1-2 hours. Also, make sure that the feeding and drinking bowls are washed with dish soap after the treatment and before use.
Dog shelter diffuser blend
Next, take out your diffuser and add a drop each of niaouli, peppermint, oregano and lavender essential oils to the unit. Diffuse in the shelter for 15-20 minutes. But remember to keep the doors of the cages/kennels locked so that your pooch can’t come in while the aroma is being diffused. Diffusing the blend will not only kill the airborne parasites floating about, but also make the air less irritating for sick canines.
Recipe 2: Pooch masseuse formula
- Peppermint essential oil
- Marjoram essential oil
- Lemon essential oil
- Niaouli essential oil
- Coconut Oil
Time to get up close and personal with your furry friends. Coupled with the incessant coughing and fatigue, kennel cough can really wreak havoc on a hound’s back. That’s why a quick spine rub would mean the world to your animals. Just dilute a one drop each of the essential oils in a tablespoon of coconut oil and massage it down the animal’s spine. This helps stimulate the blood flow and eases some aches.
Recipe 3: Scooby’s kennel cough coconut oil / honey blend
- Coconut oil
You may also want to consider the use of coconut oil and honey. Both help to soothe ravaged throat muscles and speed up healing of the soft tissue. You can also use the mixture as an expectorant. For best results add a tiny pinch of cinnamon powder and dried ginger powder to a 1:1 mixture of coconut oil and raw honey.
Unrefined coconut oil used as a dietary supplement works wonders for the symptoms of kennel cough. Just a single teaspoonful of the stuff laced with honey every morning is essential in managing some of the symptoms. Coconut oil contains antifungal, anti-viral and antibacterial, components that help speed up your dog’s recovery from kennel cough.
Ginger powder acts as a powerful mucolytic agent while cinnamon helps to remove the bacterial biofilm that protects the critters and allows them to thrive. Moreover, cinnamon is a powerful renal protective agent that helps to speed up the removal of toxins from the body without putting undue stress on the kidneys.
Recipe 4: Homemade honey kennel cough syrup
- 1 drop peppermint essential oil
- 2 drops cardamom essential oil
- Jar of raw honey
Did you know that honey also works just as good for kennel cough as it does for the human common cold? That’s right your dog will also enjoy some sweet tasty medicine one in a while, am I right?
To make use of this recipe, start by placing a sufficient amount of honey in a cup past the half way point. Next, mix in the essential oils as indicated and stir gently.
This cocktail of therapeutic agents potentially reduces any inflammation in the respiratory system and soothes the throat to clear that ugly hacking and wheezing. Besides clearing pathogens and relieving symptoms, this recipe also boosts your dogs immune system to prevent further attacks.
There you have it my fellow pet parents; everything you need to know about kennel cough is now at the tips of your fingers. Although the symptoms can seem brutal and worrisome, we’ve seen that kennel cough is not a serious condition. It even tends to go away all on its own in most cases.
But to make sure that both your family and your pets are always on the safe; whether at home or in a dog shelter, it pays to take preventative measures. Keep your home clean, the dogs’ surroundings spotless and make sure you always have the vet on speed dial and you’ll never have to deal with kennel cough.