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5 Home Remedies to Cure Kennel Cough

It's like the common cold for canines, but it's easy to combat.

 |  Nov 7th 2012  |   4 Contributions


In the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, many displaced dogs are winding up at animal shelters up and down the East Coast, where they are exposed to various strains of kennel cough. This airborne virus is highly contagious to dogs and spreads frighteningly fast from cage to cage. For the lucky dogs who were reunited with their owners or adopted by new families but came home with a case of the cough, the good news is that kennel cough is not communicable to people or cats, and is easily treated at home. The key is to keep the dog away from other dogs until he's no longer contagious. 

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Sadly, for the dogs in my home city of New York, the strain of kennel cough that goes around the NYC shelter system is particularly virulent.

I've cured many cases of this particular kind of kennel cough in my day, so I've got a stash of simple home remedies, which work to combat all strains. Actually, kennel cough is not that different from any cough you'd get yourself as part of the ordeal we call the common cold -- and it so happens that the remedies listed below work beautifully on humans, too. Try them out the next time you or a loved one on two legs starts hacking pitiably!

1. Probiotics

Besides being excellent for oral and digestive health, these beneficial bacteria do wonders to support the immune system. This is critical when treating kennel cough, which could easily progress to life-threatening pneumonia if left untreated. Be sure to give your dog a probiotic supplement made for dogs, such as Pet Dophilus by Jarrow.

And if your vet has prescribed a course of antibiotics for your dog (which is a common veterinary procedure in treating kennel cough), be sure to wait at least two hours after administering the antibiotic before giving the probiotic, or the two will cancel each other out and healing won't happen. 

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2. Cough Syrup

Give Spot a lovin' spoonful of your favorite decongestant cough syrup, but don't give a suppressant formula; the idea is that you want the coughs to keep coming, and to be productive (i.e., to bring up the phlegm). My two favorite cough syrups are made by Nature's Way: Umcka Cold Care (cherry flavor) and Sambucus. These products have become so popular in the last couple of years that they're now widely available at major drugstore chains as well as at Whole Foods.

With either syrup, use a syringe to measure out one teaspoon and dose your dog three times daily. Carefully squirt the syrup down her throat with the syringe, then close her jaws and gently massage her throat so she swallows it all. Dogs are usually surprised at the pleasant taste (Sambucus tastes like a blackberry syrup you'd be tempted to pour over pancakes), so they swiftly swallow without putting up a fight or spitting up in disgust.

3. Honey

The antibacterial property of this product of busy bees' labors is truly astonishing. I give sick dogs one tablespoon twice daily until their coughs are cured; it also works to alleviate the nasal discharge that accompanies kennel cough.

For maximum benefit, be sure to select a homegrown honey that's not produced in China, ideally a raw honey such as my favorite brand, Really Raw Honey, which comes topped with a "cap" of pollen, propolis, and honeycomb. Dogs love this chewy mixture -- mine go nuts for it.

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4. Coconut oil

Dogster has extolled the virtues of this superfood before, and its amazing antiviral property is especially helpful when combating kennel cough, which is caused by the Bordetella virus. Give two teaspoons daily until the cough is cured.

Pour it over Spot's food bowl or just let her lick it right off the spoon -- being congested will suppress her appetite, but a whiff of this oil's rich, fragrant aroma will get her mouth watering again.

5. Cinnamon

Another Dogster-approved dietary supplement, this essential spice-cabinet staple is safe to sprinkle liberally over your dog's food bowl any time of year, but especially when she's got the canine common cold. Like coconut oil, cinnamon is also antiviral, so go ahead and shake half a teaspoon of it over Spot's food. Look for Ceylon Cinnamon, which is especially fragrant.

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Have you helped your hound through a bout of kennel cough? What home remedies worked for you? Please share in the comments!

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