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Kennel Cough Vaccination doesn't guarantee your dog won't get kennel cough


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I think most of us know this, but great info for us and newbies!


Kennel Cough
Vaccination doesn't guarantee your dog won't get kennel cough. Find out why, and how an integrative approach that includes Chinese herbs and homeopathy can combat this contagious respiratory disease!


Kennel cough
Christina Chambreau, DVM, CVH March 14, 2018 131 Views


Vaccination doesn’t guarantee your dog won’t get kennel cough. Find out why, and how an integrative approach that includes Chinese herbs and homeopathy can combat this contagious respiratory disease.

Kennel cough is an extremely contagious respiratory disease in dogs. It’s named for the fact that it’s most commonly contracted in situations where large numbers of dogs come together – e.g. boarding kennels. But your dog can also get kennel cough (known as infectious tracheobronchitis) at dog daycares, dog parks and other areas frequented by lots of canines. This article looks at why vaccinating against kennel cough isn’t a failsafe, and how an integrative approach to the disease, including Chinese herbs and homeopathy, is most effective.

Why kennel cough requires a multi-pronged approach
Kennel cough was among the conditions that showed me the benefits of integrative medicine. While an extern at the Foxhound breeding colony at the NIH in 1979, my job was to culture every coughing dog. Amazingly, there were few similar organisms present in each dog, and over a dozen different bacteria present in the kennel. Viruses were also certainly implicated.

I began to wonder how any vaccine could be effective against kennel cough. When I was a new graduate, I worked in over ten clinics as a part time and relief veterinarian. Each clinic had very different protocols for treating kennel cough, ranging from honey to multiple drugs.

Multiple organisms reside in the respiratory tract. They cause no clinical signs unless triggered by stressors like viruses, smoke, crowding, poor ventilation, etc. By deeply improving the health of each dog, respiratory symptoms rarely develop even when the animal is exposed to “infectious” organisms. Many congenital abnormalities can also be resolved with integrative approaches.

Integrative approaches to the rescue
Interestingly, once a majority of clients in a veterinary practice are using various holistic approaches to maintain health, very few cases of kennel cough are seen, even in situations with high numbers of dogs. Most of the casesth high nimbers of dogsr multiple dog facilities reported were in newly adopted dogs.

Integrative treatments may focus both on symptom relief and on correcting the underlying imbalance allowing the condition to occur. Chinese herbs (and other TCVM modalities such as acupuncture, Tui Na, food therapy) and homeopathy are the most likely modalities for resolving the tendency to get any infection, so they will be primarily addressed in this article.

Western herbs, Reiki, flower essences, chiropractic, osteopathy and supplements can also be used to resolve any one episode of kennel cough, as well as build health over time. Be sure to work with an integrative or holistic veterinarian before trying any new therapies on your dog.

Chinese herbs
The selection of Chinese herbs for kennel cough is based on the individual characteristics of the dog as well as the pathology, so it’s very important to consult with a veterinarian who is well-versed in their use.

  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang — one veterinarian has had nice results with this, often along with using allopathic medications.
  • Wei Chi Booster – helps the immune system.
  • Yin Qiao San – for the early stages of infection with fever and red tongue with yellow coating.
  • Qing Fei San – for phlegm heat with fever. Dry, red tongue with surging rapid pulse.
  • Zhi Shou San – can stop coughing in many animals.
  • Lonicera and Forsythia (commonly used for colds and flu in people) – a remote town that had no kennel cough for years was visited by a coughing dog, after which most dogs began coughing. This herb worked in a few days for most of them.
Historically, homeopathy has been a superior approach for human epidemic situations such as influenza, typhoid and yellow fever. In animals, parvo, distemper and kennel cough frequently resolve quickly with homeopathy, even in cases not already under constitutional holistic care.

In my homeopathic practice, the few cases of kennel cough I’ve seen resolved within 48 hours with one of a variety of different homeopathic remedies. Fewer than five animals (out of 20 homeopathic veterinarians interviewed) needed multiple remedies or took over a week to resolve.

Each homeopathic medicine is chosen based on symptoms shown in the animal. Common symptoms of kennel cough include sudden onset of sneezing, spontaneous hacking, dry coughing that may induce gagging, easily inducible cough, and sometimes mandibular lymphadenopathy, nasal and/or ocular discharge. What helps with the remedy selection is how each animal is acting differently with these symptoms. Does the cough occur in the morning, on exposure to cold air, after eating a cracker or other dry food, etc.? Any one of the 4,000+ medicines could be needed to treat kennel cough, and a few seem to help with many dogs as reported by a number of homeopathic veterinarians:

  • Aconitum – given at the very beginning of any infection, especially in group settings to prevent or minimize symptoms. Often, the dogs are acting more fearful and may be febrile.
  • Belladonna – lots of redness anywhere on the body, including the skin and mucus membranes, as well as fever, panting, feeling hot and seeking cold areas, and a harsh strong cough.
  • Bryonia – each cough hurts because it moves the body, and every motion hurts these patients.
  • Drosera – a common internet suggestion that focuses on the larynx. For a spasmodic, dry cough that’s worse after midnight.
  • Kennel cough nosode – a nosode is made from the sputum of an infected dog. There are many differing opinions about the use of nosodes in preventing illness. When symptoms are not clear, some homeopathic veterinarians begin with these.
  • Pertussinum – a nosode made from whooping cough. Sometimes used preventatively; other times as part of the homeopathic treatment.
  • Phosphorus – dogs exhibit fear of loud noises, are better for being petted and the center of attention, have a thirst for cold water, and a tickling cough from an irritated throat or larynx.
  • Lachesis – aversion to having the throat touched, cough on touching the throat, seeking cold, averse to abdominal palpation, thirsty and irritable.
  • Morgan Bach – congestion, and as support for other remedies.
  • Rumex – tickling in throat and larynx, worse from barking, and worse when going out in cold weather.
  • Spongia – dry croupy cough, larynx sensitive to touch, better from eating or drinking, worse in the wind.
  • Other remedies reported as successful include Antimonium-tartaricum, Euphrasia, Conium, Cocculus-cacti, Bromium, Ipecac pulsatilla and Rhu-toxicodendrum.
Give a few pellets of 30c in the mouth several times a day. Give less frequently as the dog improves. Consult your homeopathic veterinarian (he/she can help by phone) if there is a worsening of either the cough or how your dog feels in general. One joy of seeing each dog as unique is that we can resolve acute infections as well as more challenging tracheal diseases, while building overall health. This approach can also prevent problems, as well as inhibit further spread of infection in group settings such as kennels, day care or training facilities.

The issue with vaccination
Because of the variety of organisms present, vaccination has focused on Bordetella bronchiseptia. Vaccines (different organisms, different formulations) have been used since 1970, yet many questions are still not answered.

A study done in 2004 “compared the effectiveness of intranasal (IN) vaccines containing Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine-parainfluenza virus, with (IN-BPA) or without (IN-BP) canine-adenovirus type 2, for prevention of kennel cough at a humane shelter…. The IN-BP and IN-BPA vaccines were 20.7% and 24.4% effective, respectively, in reducing coughing compared with a placebo vaccine.” As you can see, these percentages aren’t very high.

Additional holistic modalities for kennel cough

  • Vitamins C (500 to 2,000 mg per day, divided) and E (800 to 2,400 IU daily).
  • Colostrum at 500 mg per 25 pounds.
  • Honey, or honey and lemon juice, or coconut oil can be soothing and any amount is safe; average dose is 1 tsp per 20 pounds.
  • Marshmallow root is gentler than commonly-used slippery elm; dissolve 1 tsp in 8 ounces warm water and give a teaspoon at a time.
coughhealingkennel coughtreatmentvaccinationsvaccines

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About the author
Christina Chambreau, DVM, CVH
Veterinarian Dr. Christina Chambreau graduated from the University of Georgia Veterinary College in 1980. She is a founder of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, was on the faculty of the National Center for Homeopathic Summer School and has been the holistic modality adjunct faculty liaison for the Maryland Veterinary Technician Program. Dr. Chambreau is author of Healthy Animal’s Journal, co-author of the Homeopathic Repertory: A Tutorial, and Associate Editor of IVC Journal.


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But I mention this all the time. If your Dobe develops a Cough and you take them to your Vet. I would tell your Vet to prove to you that it is NOT DCM!​

My Preferred Way to Prevent and Treat Kennel Cough​

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker


My Preferred Way to Prevent and Treat Kennel Cough

Bordetella, or kennel cough, is similar to a chest cold in humans and is marked by a dry hacking cough.



  • Kennel cough (Bordetella) is a highly contagious upper respiratory condition in dogs; most Bordetella cases are acquired in facilities where lots of dogs are together in close quarters
  • The most common cause of the infection is the simultaneous presence of the parainfluenza virus and the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria; the universal symptom of an infection is a dry hacking cough
  • The best course of action is to let mild cases of kennel cough in otherwise healthy dogs run their course with the aid of natural, non-toxic remedies
  • Since a serious episode of kennel cough can result in pneumonia, if the symptoms aren’t improved after a week or are worsening, your puppy or adult dog stops eating or develops a fever, make an urgent appointment with your veterinarian
  • Because there are many viruses and bacteria that can contribute to a kennel cough infection, experts say bordetella is not a vaccinatable disease; instead, focus on supporting your dog’s immune system
If you have a dog, you’ve probably heard of kennel cough (scientific name: infectious tracheobronchitis) because it’s a very common upper respiratory infection in dogs. In fact, if your pet has recently been in an animal shelter, boarding facility or some other setting where there were lots of other dogs, and now she’s coughing frequently or making choking sounds, she may have acquired the infection.
Kennel cough is similar to a chest cold in humans and is actually a form of bronchitis. It can be triggered by several different viruses and bacteria, but by far the most common culprit is the simultaneous presence of the parainfluenza virus and the bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica.

How Dogs Acquire Kennel Cough​

Kennel cough is highly contagious, and dogs can remain infectious for many weeks after their symptoms disappear. Dog-to-dog exposure occurs when an infected dog coughs or sneezes and a healthy dog inhales the aerosolized respiratory secretions.
The canine respiratory tract is coated in a protective lining of mucus. If this lining is compromised, an infection can take hold from the inhaled particles. The result is inflammation of the larynx and trachea, which is what causes the coughing.
If the healthy dog’s respiratory tract is compromised by stressors such as travel, being housed in a crowded environment, cold temperatures, environmental pollutants, or infectious viruses, then Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is the chief infectious bacterial agent in kennel cough, can enter the respiratory tract.
Bordetella bacteria are usually accompanied by at least one other infectious agent, typically a virus. Kennel cough is actually multiple infections occurring at the same time and not just a single infection. This is one of the reasons the Bordetella vaccine is often not effective, and it’s why I don’t recommend it (more about this shortly).
Most cases of kennel cough occur in dogs with suppressed immune systems who spend time in crowded quarters with inadequate ventilation and lots of warm air.

What to Look For​

Generally speaking, if an otherwise healthy dog suddenly develops a persistent cough, it's usually due to an infection in the form of some type of kennel cough, virus, bacteria, or a combination.

A sudden dry hacking cough, sneezing, snorting, retching, gagging, or vomiting in response to very light pressure to the trachea, or a spasmodic cough when a dog is excited or exercising, are all common symptoms of kennel cough. A nasal discharge may be present, and sometimes there can also be fever. Three different dogs with kennel cough:

Most symptoms of kennel cough occur 2 to 14 days after exposure, and dogs usually continue to eat and remain alert. When the condition is more serious, they can become lethargic and lose their appetite.

Rarely, pneumonia can develop. In a worst-case scenario, the infection can lead to death, but it’s important to know that severe cases of kennel cough primarily occur in immunocompromised dogs or in very young puppies. It's very rare to lose a dog with a competent immune system to kennel cough.

Diagnosis is made by observing one or more of the symptoms noted above, often coupled with a history of the dog having spent time at a boarding facility, puppy mill or shelter. If the infection is serious and the dog has pneumonia, bacterial cultures should be performed to identify the specific pathogens involved. Some veterinarians also take x-rays to check for bronchitis.

Options for Treating Kennel Cough​

Most cases of kennel cough resolve on their own without medical intervention, which is why I never recommend unnecessary antibiotics, because antibiotics don’t address the viral component of this infection. I always prefer to let the dog’s body heal itself naturally with non-toxic support, as long as she’s stable.
During the acute phase of the illness, I strongly recommend using a harness to prevent your dog’s collar from aggravating the situation, especially if he tends to pull against the leash on walks. You can also try humidifying the air to help reduce or alleviate coughing spells. I add colloidal silver to my humidifier when anyone in the house has any type of bacterial respiratory infection.
Complete recovery from kennel cough can take up to 3 weeks in healthy dogs, and twice as long in older patients or those with underlying immunosuppressive conditions. Puppies can also take a bit longer to recover because their immune systems are not yet fully developed.
Since a serious episode of kennel cough can result in pneumonia, if your dog doesn’t start to improve on his own within about a week, the coughing becomes progressively worse, he develops a fever or stops eating, it’s very important to make an appointment with your veterinarian. If antibiotics are prescribed, always give probiotics during and after administration.
I also recommend seeing your vet if you have a puppy with symptoms that go beyond the typical symptoms of kennel cough, such as a change in breathing patterns, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, or a markedly diminished energy level.
There are several excellent natural remedies I’ve used for years to speed dogs’ recovery from kennel cough and reduce the severity of symptoms.
Esberitox is a fast-acting echinacea that can be very effective in reducing the virulence of Bordetella infectionsManuka honey
Raw garlic and olive leaf are natural antibacterial and antiviral agentsSlippery elm can help soothe sore, irritated throats, as well as Throat Coat tea
Vitamin C is an antiviral and vitamin E provides immune system supportEssential oils can be water diffused to help a dog with kennel cough breathe easier. Oils of eucalyptus, lemon, lavender and tea tree have antibacterial and antiviral properties. Note: This essential oil blend is only for homes without cats!
Homeopathic nosodes stimulate the immune system to react against specific diseases, but since they require a prescription, you’ll need to work with an integrative veterinarian

Bordetella Vaccines​

Many veterinarians recommend Bordetella vaccines, either by injection or by internasal delivery. However, I do not.
Many boarding kennels, doggy daycare facilities, groomers and other similar businesses require that dogs be vaccinated for kennel cough. The reason behind this requirement is to remove liability from those businesses. Veterinary immunology authority Dr. Ronald Schultz has stated that Bordetella is an “un-vaccinatable” disease.
The vaccines are generally ineffective and will not prevent your dog from getting kennel cough. The infection is caused by a wide variety of bacterial and viral agents, and no single vaccine can provide protection from them all, nor will the vaccine treat an active infection.
In addition, whatever protection the vaccine might offer wears off very quickly, usually in less than a year, which means your pet will need to be revaccinated every six months if you patronize businesses that demand the vaccine.
On the rare occasion I must provide a Bordetella vaccine for a dog who will be traveling or boarded, I always use the nose drop variety, as it’s much less toxic. It doesn’t contain the strong adjuvants the injectable version has, and it carries few if any side effects. It’s also important to understand that your dog can still acquire kennel cough infection even if she’s been vaccinated.