Your puppy will likely be exposed to Kennel Cough or Bordetella at some point in their young lives. Most puppies end up with a case of it in their first months at home. Spring and Fall are the typical periods when more cases show up. There were well over 100 strains of Bordetella when I opened my facility over 20 years ago. The number is closer to 200 now that we have dogs coming from so many regions of the world, all with their own specific strains.
Many strains are viral only, but an increasing number have a bacterial component. Depending on the strain, symptoms vary greatly. Some are so minor that parents are not even aware their dog is infected. Others can be more severe, causing lethargy, lack of appetite or even fever. Most commonly, parents will notice an occasional hack – almost like the dog has something stuck in their throat and will think nothing of it. With no other symptoms present, the puppy seems just fine. Duration also varies, lasting as few as 3 days to as long as 14 days.
Many strains will simply run their course and other than a bit of rest, immune-boosting and something to ease the cough, the dog will not require additional attention. Other strains can cause a harsh cough that may require special attention for the comfort of the dog. Others have a bacterial component that can develop into a secondary infection that requires medical attention.
During KC season, you can give your dog’s natural defence system a boost. This may help them to resist the virus when it’s going around. If they do contract a strain, the symptoms will often be milder and the recovery time shorter with these immune boosters.
There are several things to help kick your dog’s immune system up a notch. You probably already have some at home. Most are readily available at health food stores or even grocery stores.
Pick 1 or 2 of these and provide daily:
cod liver oil
* These products are available at natural pet shops.
I also like to use Eucalyptus oil in KC season. It has great anti-viral properties that assist in cleaning the virus out of your dog’s respiratory tract. Simply put a drop on your palm and rub it under your dog’s chin, on their collar or bedding.
To ease the cough, you can provide a teaspoon or two (less for small breeds) of unpasteurized honey. Manuka honey is even better. It helps to soothe and heal irritated throat tissues. For more severe coughs, you can try COUGH-EX* or contact your vet for a dog-safe cough syrup.
If your dog does contract Kennel Cough, allow them to deal with the virus. That means easing up on their activity and exercise schedule. Do not allow them to over-exert themselves or get chilled. It is also helpful to avoid situations that cause them to cough and irritate their throat. They should be walked on a harness instead of a collar until their cough has completely disappeared. (Please note that I advise using a harness for walking in general).
Bordetella is something that you and your pup will most likely encounter in your first months together. Being proactive and taking advantage of the immune-boosting ideas above will help you get through it more comfortably.
Note: The Bordetella vaccine does NOT protect or prevent your dog from getting KC. The shot only covers 3 strains and these are not typically the ones that your dog will be exposed to. Also, being a live vaccine, your pup will be shedding the virus and potentially exposing other pups for 2 weeks.
This information is not intended to replace medical advice from your vet.