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It is unfortunate that healthy dogs --even those belonging to the most cautious of owners-- are at risk of falling ill from time to time. An owner whose dog has become sick is not necessarily a careless owner, just an unlucky one. Analogous to human infections, canines are at risk of fast-acting, quick-spreading bacteria that can cause both species a world of pain.
Kennel cough is an example of such an infection; one that is transmitted to a healthy dog who finds himself in close proximity to a sick dog. Ideal conditions can include animal shelters, kennels and even veterinarians’ offices.
The disease becomes airborne when expelled from a contaminated dog’s body, and, in close quarters, aligns itself to the inside of the trachea of another. A cocktail of viruses then spreads, among it the causative agent of infectious bronchitis, Bordetella bronchiseptica.
Symptoms appear three to fourteen days after the viruses have become transplanted in their new host, and generally last seven to twenty-one days. Dogs infected by kennel cough suffer harsh coughing spells that has them hacking throughout the day, but has little effect on their playfulness, alertness, or appetite.
Although kennel cough cannot always be avoided, preventative measures can be taken. A dog’s environment has a lot to do with its health, including, but not limited to, crowding stress, dust, cigarette smoke exposure, cold temperatures, and poor ventilation.
Most infected dogs can recover without the use of medication or treatment, although a dog’s recovery can be hastened by the presence of antibiotics or cough suppressants.
There is a question concerning the effectiveness of vaccines (injectable as well as intranasal), because of the fact that kennel cough is a localized infection, thus is an infection that does not lend itself to prevention by vaccination. The vaccination’s potency must also be boosted annually, and sometimes fails to completely prevent the illness.
While a French proverb states that, “A dry cough is the trumpeter of death,” luckily, it is untrue in this case. Life-threatening cases of kennel cough are rare; however, a misdiagnosis of symptoms could prove fatal when other potentially deadly illnesses, such as pneumonia, are mistaken for kennel cough. Furthermore, because a dog’s failure to overcome the illness over a prolonged period may suggest an underlying condition, check with your local veterinarian if symptoms do persist.
Treating Kennel Cough
A dog's ability to overcome kennel cough hastily has as much to do with what happens outside of the body, as it does in regard to what goes on inside of it. Although the illness is self-limiting — typically disappearing after less than 3 weeks' time, — measures can be taken to ease the dog's discomfort, by shortening the amount of time the cough lasts. Listed below are several treatments that have all proven useful in combating kennel cough.
If you dogs developes kennel cough please consult with your veterinarian for treatment. Along with prescribed antibiotics, you can also follow thsese alternative treatments:
Found in most home medicine cabinets, Vitamin C doubles as an ingredient in many of the costly kennel cough remedies found on the market today. Vitamin C, or L-ascorbate, is an effective, reasonably priced nutrient that boosts the immune system and fights infections in humans as well as dogs. When placed in the dog’s food, it helps to provide relief by strengthening the dog’s natural defense system, thus, considerably cutting the amount of time the it has to contend with kennel cough.
As it does with humans, the recommended dosage of Vitamin C varies in direct relation to bodyweight. Consult with the dog’s veterinarian before dispensing the vitamin as it can, in excess, cause irritable bowel syndrome. Again, it does depend on the size of the dog, but a healthy dose usually falls in the range of 2-3 daily servings of 500mg.
Garlic & Echinacea
Dogs that have weak immune systems are more likely to get infections; including, but not limited to, respiratory sicknesses such as kennel cough. A proactive dog owner should look to strengthen a dog’s immune system well before any symptoms befall their pet by staying current with supplementation of vitamins and minerals. However, a reactive approach is also effective in treating an infection like kennel cough. Garlic is antibacterial and antiviral, and is great for the immune system. Although it is available in odorless capsules, anyone who knows dogs is aware that because they are not the pickiest of eaters, they will eat fresh cut garlic.
Echinacea is another viable option as it, too, is an effective herb in enhancing the immune system, for both owners and their four-legged friends. These capsules are also generally tasteless and odorless.
The first, and most important, action taken by the owner of a dog who is aware that his-or-her pet is infected, calls for the immediate isolation of all known infected dogs. Because the illness becomes aerosolized and reproduces rapidly, it follows that the separation of the haves and have-nots is of utmost importance; perhaps the final word in treating kennel cough is containment.
Dogs that have kennel cough should be kept warm, comfortable, and dry. A temperature-controlled room promotes an environment in which the illness can be overcome quickly, and one where congestion can be broken up. A dog that can breathe easily allows its owner to breathe easily, knowing full well that their pet is on their way to recuperation.
A popular technique used in physical therapy called coupage helps free respiratory secretions. A cupped palm should gently, briskly, and repeatedly tap against the dog's chest. Coupage loosens some of the deeper secretions and helps clear them by moving them into the airways. The infectious materials are then finally expelled from the body when the dog coughs. Performed at least four times daily, coupage should be continued for the duration of the cough.
Kennel cough is a respiratory infection in nature, distressing the throat and lungs. Until the infection has passed, disregard the dog’s pleas to exercise; aerobic exercise will exacerbate the illness, setting back the dog‘s recovery.
Corey Ford, American author and humorist, once noted that,
“Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend.”
We need to give our dogs the attention they require,
with both love and medicine.