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Questions for Dr. Shawn - Kennel Cough

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"Dear Dr. Shawn:
"I get a reminder from my veterinarian every 6 months about getting a booster shot for kennel cough for my dog. Does he really need this that often? He doesn’t really have much exposure to other dogs most of the time. If he should get kennel cough, what would be a good natural way to treat it that would minimize his need for antibiotics?"

”Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) is a highly communicable disease commonly seen in dogs with exposure to infected pets. This most often occurs with the purchase of a new puppy, acquiring a dog from a shelter, or in dogs exposed to others through boarding, grooming, and dog shows. Dogs that are kept mainly indoors with little exposure to other dogs are unlikely to becomed infected with the organisms that cause kennel cough (a bacterium named Bordetella bronchispetica, related to the bacterium which causes whooping cough in people, and a virus named parainfluenza.) If your dog is likely to become exposed to other dogs, then regular vaccination is important in minimizing the chance of infection and disease. My personal preference is the intranasal vaccine rather than the injectable vaccine. The intranasal vaccine provides quicker immunity and I have not seen any side effects with its use (the injectable vaccine commonly caused lumps to form at the site of injection whenever I used it in the past, and some dogs did not feel good for several days following vaccination.) Due to short-lived immunity, the intranasal vaccine must be given every 6 months for those dogs which require vaccination. The intranasal vaccine does not produce a detectable blood antibody titer, so I prefer vaccination in pets with a history of exposure to other dogs.

If your pet contracts kennel cough, clinical signs are usually limited to a frequent, hacking cough. The cough resembles the sound of choking, and many owners mistakenly believe that their pets are choking. In most cases, the affected dog is not sick except for the cough. Most dogs will recover with TLC from kennel cough. Since pneumonia can occur in pets as a consequence of initial infection, it’s usually a good idea to use antibiotics as part of the treatment. Corticosteroids can reduce inflammation in the throat and decrease coughing, and sometimes cough suppressants like butorphanol can also minimize coughing. An integrative approach also focuses on supporting the immune system to minimize the time the pet has the infection. BY supporting the immune system you will help your dog heal himself, which can reduce the amount of time he will need conventional medications. Any number of immune-boosting homeopathic or herbal remedies can help. In my practice I often use products containing astragalus, arabinogalactans, goldenseal, and Echinacea in this regard. Some of my favorite products are Engystol, Echinacea-comp, Herbal ABX, Olive Leaf Extract, Immune +, and Immunosupport. Husteel, a popular homeopathic product, can minimize coughing in many patients, as can Bryonia. While controversial, the homeopathic kennel cough vaccine nosode may help pets with exposure to kennel cough or in those with the disease.

In most cases, using this integrative approach will result in recovering from kennel cough in 2-4 weeks. Some pets, particularly puppies with an immature immune system, may continue to cough for up to 2-3 months following initial infection. As long as the pet is not clinically “sick,” continuing supportive care is usually all that is needed.”




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