Coughs can be worthless of any concern. Or it may be the nightmare for you and your adorable dog. Firstly, it is crucial to determine whether your dog has truly got a cough or if he is deliberately coughing to get something out, stuck in his throat.
Kennel cough is the common name given to Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) Complex, which is a rapidly contagious disease of the respiratory tracts of dogs. Kennel cough in dogs is typically recognised by dry coughs resulting from inflammation of the trachea and bronchial tubes, similar to the common cold in humans. Kennel cough is found all across the globe and is known to infect a high rate of dogs at least once during their lifetime.
Other names given to Kennel Coughs are Bordetellosis, after the bacteria most commonly associated with the symptoms or infectious Tracheobronchitis. Young puppies may suffer the resulting complications most severely, since they have immature immune systems. Also the older dogs, who may have decreased immune capabilities; pregnant dogs, who also have lowered immunity; and dogs with pre-existing respiratory diseases have higher susceptibility. In these groups, kennel cough can rapidly turn into pneumonia, a serious respiratory complication that may even require hospitalization of your dog.
Causes of Kennel Cough in Dogs
Some of the common microorganisms that lead to CIRD are Bordetella Bronchiseptica bacteria, Canine Adenovirus, Parainfluenza virus and mycoplasma.1 One or several of these or other unmentioned organisms together can cause the symptoms of this disease. Infections with multiple organisms, though rare, but tend to cause the most severe complications.1
Unlike Kennel Cough, other types of coughs are generally productive. Some other dry coughs that are due to tracheal collapse can be triggered by drinking water. Diseases of the larynx or oesophagus can also cause dog’s dry coughing. As after eating a damaged or paralysed larynx may not close properly, allowing swallowed food to enter the trachea. An abnormal or dilated oesophagus may allow food to pool, then pass back up and down into the lungs, causing instant irritating coughs, gagging and possible infection.
Symptoms of Kennel Cough in a Dog
The disease most of the time affects dogs coming in close contact, for example, in boarding kennels, day-care centers, dog parks, competitive events, etc. It is caused by both bacteria and viruses. Affected dogs typically develop a harsh and dry cough. Additionally, severe coughing episodes can produce phlegm.
Dogs often develop clinical signs presumed as kennel cough 3-4 days after exposure to a large number of other dogs (e.g., at a park, boarding facility, shelter or dog show), but it may take up to 10 days to show up in full rage. Dogs may also experience similar mild symptoms after receiving the vaccine, but to no risk. The symptoms include:
- A persistent dry cough, which is the most common symptom
- Coughs throughout the night keeping your dog awake
- The dog often retches
- Watery nasal discharge
- In mild cases, dogs are often active and eat normally
- In severe cases, symptoms progress and can include pneumonia, lack of appetite, fever, lethargy and even death.2
Kennel Cough treatment for pets at home
Is the Dog Really Coughing?
If he coughs, and seems like he wants to throw his head upwards and does not keep a hard stomach, he might have something stuck in his throat. For these situations, it is important that you know how to practice the Heimlich manoeuvre. There are three ways to remove what is stuck in his neck: The first thing that you must do is to flex his back, taking him from behind but without raising him from the floor; Then cross your arms around his waist and push it towards you; Lastly, if you have a small or medium sized dog, take him by the legs and lift him up, shaking him down with dry movements but if he is of a larger breed, give five pats on his back. You do not hurt him this way, but it helps him to expel what he has got stuck inside. If you do not feel confident enough to follow these steps or you think he has not breathed for too long, get him to your emergency vet as soon as you can.
The second thing is to differentiate the cough with the retches due to gastric torsion. It begins with a gastric dilation because of eating a lot, very quickly. If this is his case, touch his belly. The belly is hard if it is gastric torsion. Even if the belly is not hard, but he ate a lot and then he appears retching, do not look for home remedies and go to a veterinarian.
Thirdly, it is necessary to differentiate your dog’s coughs from his sneezes, as they are pretty similar. The only way to tell is to see his mouth: which is not wide open while sneezing.
Now, if the dog is truly coughing, then you have to learn that coughs can be either typical immune system responses to allergens entering the lungs, which would go away on its own within 3-4 days. Or it is the Kennel Cough which we suspect.
Clinical Diagnosis of Kennel Cough
The diagnosis is majorly based upon the symptoms that are present, the dog’s health history and his exposure to other dogs. You should give a thorough history of your dog’s health and onset of clinical signs. Your veterinarian may order a combination of blood tests including a complete blood cell count, urinalysis, faecal examinations and chest X-ray. If the dog does not respond to treatments as expected, additional tests (e.g., bacterial cultures) may be necessary to determine the cause of the cough.3
What measures and cares to take once your dog is diagnosed with Kennel Cough?
Once diagnosed, keep your dog in isolation. If you have multiple pets and one of them acquires kennel cough, the other are likely to develop symptoms as well. In this case try keeping the dogs separate and deep clean all surfaces they use, including all the bedding and flooring. If you can’t separate the dogs, frequent cleaning will at least limit contagion. These infections generally do not cross over to humans; there are instances where young children and adults with compromised immune systems may be at risk. In these instances, it is urgent to talk to your health care provider.
- Remove Irritants: If your dog’s cough seems related to irritants, you must remove dust and extra fur from the dog’s residing place. Avoiding airborne irritants such as cigarette smoke and allergen particles will also help to minimize throat irritation and coughing.1
- Humidify the air where the dog stays most of the time. Keeping a humidifier near your dog’s primary area of rest can help to moisten its irritated respiratory passages brought on by the kennel cough. Steam therapy also works well and can be easily done by placing your dog in a small bathroom and running a hot shower to fill the air with moist vapour. However, do not allow your dog to come into physical contact with hot water.
- If possible, use an air cleaner or air filter. An air cleaner in the home will remove dust particles, helping both your dog, and the rest of your family, breathe easier.
- Don’t allow your dog to play in tall grass, as the seed heads are easy to inhale and can lead to irritation.
The typical rules of recovering from a cold also apply to that of dogs with kennel cough. It is important to ensure that your dog is eating well and is well hydrated. Your dog should get enough rest, since exercise and excitement often initiate gagging and coughing spells. While walking, it is best to attach the leash to a harness rather than the collar. Pressure on the windpipe when the collar is pulled causes further irritation and worsens coughing.
- Honey: We are familiar with the soothing benefits of honey for sore throat. Honey is a great natural remedy for it has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Dogs with kennel cough experience the same dry and scratchy throat as we people suffer from a cold. You can administer 0.5-1 tablespoons of honey either directly from a spoon, mixed with warm water in a bowl or with other wet food. Varying on the degree of coughing, honey can be given one to three times per day.
- Feed your dog coconut oil. In recent years, coconut oil has become a herbal treating supplement as its medium-chain fatty acids kill harmful bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungi, and parasites. The recommended dose is 1 teaspoon coconut oil per 5 kilograms of body weight per day in divided doses. When your dog has been readily exposed to tracheobronchitis for days, the dose can be doubled. The only adverse effect of a too-high dose of coconut oil is loose, greasy stools. Most dogs easily catch up with a coconut oil regimen, for their fondness of the taste.
- Give him vitamin C supplements regularly. Vitamin C supplements won’t instantly compress your dog’s coughs like other medications, but will heal the tissues in your dog’s throat quickly and build up an active far-reaching immunisation. Grind one to two Vitamin C tablets and mix them with the dog’s food or water daily.
- Dog cough syrup recipe: Make a herbal tea for your pet, boiling one tablespoon of a soothing dried herb such as liquorice root, peppermint, eucalyptus or sage leaves into two cups of RO water. Let it cool down and give the dog two to four tablespoons of the tea before meals.
- Mist the air with a spray made from soothing herbal oils. Mix 3ml of lavender or eucalyptus oil with two cup of warm water in a spray bottle and mist the air in the room that the dog is in. The dog will breathe in the mist, which will soothe its irritated throat. Ultrasound aroma diffusers may come useful to this purpose.
- What to give a dog for chest congestion: Cough Suppressants may be prescribed depending on the severity of coughing by your dog’s veterinarian. These medications are typically needed only for cases of severe and persistent coughs. Coughing episodes throughout the night are very disruptive to your buddy’s much needed rest and hampers your sleep as well. Minor cases may be treated with OTC cough remedies such as Robitussin (dextromethorphan). Robitussin is recommended for chronic, dry, unproductive coughing, and should not be used for moist or productive coughs. Other OTC suppressants labelled as ‘dog-safe’ may also be used.
Note: Products containing acetaminophen or caffeine must not be given to dogs.
Antibiotics: If diagnosed in an early stage, dogs which are otherwise healthy will usually recover without the use of antibiotics. Those with health issues have compromised immune systems and are more prone to developing pneumonia, secondary to kennel cough. For dogs whose symptoms worsen after 5-7 days, antibiotics are prescribed. Antibiotics may not provide an immediate recovery — because kennel cough usually has composite bacterial and viral infection — but it would shorten the duration and severity of illness. Antibiotics and dosages must be prescribed by certified veterinarians.
When to Worry?
Though most kennel coughs are self-limiting and project little threat except for the annoying cough, affected dogs must be monitored closely. Kennel cough can turn into pneumonia or be mistaken for canine influenza. Both pneumonia and influenza can be deadly and require timely hospitalization. If your dog becomes lethargic, develops a decreased appetite or has trouble breathing with the onset of the disease, abandon home remedies and seek immediate veterinary attention. Even if on the course of your providing home remedies, his cough worsens or lasts for more than a week, or if the cough is combined with fever, sudden collapse, vomiting or with the presence of blood, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Vaccines are available against some of the bacterial and viral agents which cause kennel cough. Although vaccines are protective, they do not always prevent kennel cough fully. If your dog repeatedly faces such attacks, you should discuss getting him vaccinated with your veterinarian to avoid further complications. The decision to vaccinate greatly depends upon the dog’s lifestyle. A pet dog regularly coming into contact with other dogs (especially those who attend shows or spend time in boarding, day care facilities or dog parks) should be vaccinated against Bordetella Bronchiseptica4 and Canine Parainfluenza virus. All dogs should be vaccinated against Canine Adenovirus.
Preventive measures are deemed obligatory to avoid such complications, but asymptomatic dogs also transmit kennel cough. So, prevention is not as simple as avoiding actively coughing dogs. It is still always necessary to minimize your dog’s exposure to large numbers of dogs to reduce the risk.
Even after enough precautions, dogs may still acquire kennel cough (although a less severe form than otherwise). It is best to be observant and prepared for your admired pet all the while. Coughing can be a mere symptom of a variety of regular illnesses, it is always best to schedule a veterinary visit to ensure your dog’s the proper diagnosis and care on a regular monthly basis.
As the canine buddies give their invaluable company to soothe us with their presence, we must also pay our duties to their health causes. And the last thing to remember in this course is that they won’t be able to take care of their health by themselves, without your and my proper attention.