You are here

Homeopathy for Animals - When your dog gets Kennel Cough - What to do

When one of our animal companions gets sick, it is a cause for concern, of course. But it is even more frustrating when they develop an upper respiratory disease: they don't sleep well, and neither do we! Kennel Cough is no exception. It can be heard clear through the house. And forget banishing the dog to the garage—that space becomes an "echo chamber" for their coughing paroxysms!
     It is always an unpleasant surprise to find out that our whippets may have been exposed to Kennel Cough while at a dog show. We didn't find out until one Wednesday that some sick dogs had attended the previous Sunday's show. One of our dogs, Pierre Whippet, had been a little "off" on Tuesday, and by Wednesday, he had developed a fever of 103°F (this is not horrendous if you know that "normal" is about 101°F) and started sneezing. I gave him a dose of Aconite and then attended to the other dogs in the household.
     We were most concerned about one of our "Grand Old Ladies," Leilani Running Spirit, because she was so old. In checking the records, I found that the homeopathic veterinarian had given all four of our dogs the Kennel Cough nosode less than a year earlier, so we decided to monitor everyone carefully, but not give homeopathic remedies right away.
     By Wednesday night, Pierre's fever was down to 102°F, but he was definitely having coughing spasms—a dry barking cough. He was constantly moving around, and I thought he was "restless." When I observed more carefully, however, I found that he was actually trying to lie down, but every time he did, the coughing spells would start again. It was then that I remembered the remedy Drosera rotundifolia, for coughing spasms that are worse from lying down. The first dose of Drosera, late Wednesday night, did help some, but none of us slept well. I gave him another dose on Thursday morning which gave him even more relief. At least he slept three hours straight! He was much better on Thursday, but after dinner (his appetite was coming back strong!), he had a few coughing spells. I gave him his third and last dose around 8 p.m. He only had one coughing spell and a few "throat clearings" during the night, and by the end of the week, he was clear.
     Meanwhile, our "old gal" was starting to show evidence that she had indeed been infected. She slowly developed a mild fever (that was not surprising since her immune system wasn't as robust as Pierre's), a runny nose and a slight cough. She acted just a little "off," so I gave her one dose of Ferrum phosphoricum. She seemed a bit better, but within two days, she was walking around with her head low, coughing as though she wanted to bring up something, but no mucus was coming out. I listened to her lungs and heard the rales, so I gave her some Antimonium tartaricum 12C. Within 30 minutes, her cough became "productive," and each coughing spell helped clear her lungs of more mucus. It took another two days, dosing her twice a day, till her lungs were completely clear.
     Just for the record, the two other young female whippets in the household did not show any symptoms at all.
     Most veterinarians agree that there are several organisms that can "cause" Kennel Cough, but the most frequently implicated, and the one for which a vaccine has been developed, is Bordatella pertussis. Kennel Cough is highly contagious, hence its name. It can be contracted anywhere there is a high concentration of dogs—at dog shows, field trials, veterinary clinics, boarding kennels, groomers, etc. Conventional vaccination does not render the dogs immune, but if they are exposed, they might get a milder case. A number of studies on the homeopathic nosode (a homeopathic remedy made from the phlegm of a dog with kennel cough) have shown it to be extremely effective in preventing or at least mitigating the symptoms of Kennel Cough (International Journal of Veterinary Homeopathy, Vol. 2, No. 1 & Vol. 2, No. 2 as cited in The Homoeopathic Treatment of Small Animals, by Christopher Day).
     When faced with the fact that one or more of your animals has contracted Kennel Cough, it helps to know the typical symptoms of the disease and its usual progression (talk to your veterinarian and/or have some high quality animal care books in your library). The following remedies are frequently used when treating the symptoms of Kennel Cough, but they are not the only ones. Always match the symptoms of your patient and the symptoms of the most similar homeopathic remedy!

Kristy Lampe with her whippets

Etiology (was your dog in contact with others carrying Kennel Cough?)
If you learn of this possibility before your dog shows any sign of illness, you will be that much farther ahead because you can ensure that unnecessary stress is eliminated and that their diet is as close to perfect as possible. You can also watch for the first subtle changes as soon as they may arise.

Prodrome (those "first little signs"...)
If your dog is reasonably healthy, those "first little signs" are really hard to distinguish because most dogs will continue to "feel fine," wanting to play and walk. They may act a bit more tired than usual but this is also possible when a dog comes back from a busy weekend or an extended stay at a boarding kennel! If, however, you suspect (or know of) contact with Kennel Cough, you will want to observe the animal's appetite and thirst levels, see if a fever is developing, and watch for any changes in behavior.
     Aconitum napellus. Symptoms such as fever and sneezing come on rapidly, the mouth is dry despite drinking a lot of water, the animal seems anxious—pacing or clingy.
     Ferrum phosphoricum. Low-grade fever with few other indications. May have "drippy" nose, hacking cough with some mucus production.

Full-blown Kennel Cough
There are a number of remedies that can be very useful at this stage.
     Drosera rotundifolia. Spasmodic or paroxysmal coughing spells, cough sounds "deep," worse when lying down. There may be hoarseness and/or laryngitis, and the throat is very sensitive.
     Bryonia alba. Dry cough, aggravated by motion or being carried, although better sitting sphinx-like. Tremendous thirst. Rapid shallow breathing, panting from pain.
     Spongia tosta. Barking cough that sounds like sawing through wood; cough is better from lukewarm water and warm food.
     Rumex crispus. Dry, spasmodic coughing, cough is worse from cold air, or touching the throat.
     Ipecac. Coughing so violent, it ends in retching or even vomiting.

What if he's getting worse?
Old animals and those with chronic diseases have a much harder time getting through this disease. Kennel Cough is predominantly an upper respiratory disease, so if you hear mucus or rattling in the chest, this means the disease has progressed to the lungs and probably needs professional help. In the meantime, consider the following remedies:
     Antimonium tartaricum. A lot of thick mucus in the lungs; the animal is already very weak from days of coughing and so has trouble raising the mucus.
     Carbo vegetabilis. The dog is cold and exhausted. Cough is much worse at night. Cough in the morning brings up greenish mucus.
     Phosphorus. When the cough has gone down to the chest, and the mucus is blood-tinged.

Nursing care
Whenever one of your animals gets sick, give them the same consideration and care you would give any other member of the family. Give them plenty of fresh water and nutritious food. If possible, experiment with temperature preferences (anything from ice cubes in the water, to lukewarm water). Quarantine them from other dogs (walks, playgroups, etc). Wash bedding regularly, clean surfaces and toys they play with. If they exhibit symptoms such as, "Desires to be alone," "Motion aggravates," or "Touch aggravates," keep young children away from them while they heal. If they are not getting better, get professional help.

You may wish to consult the following useful texts to learn more about the homeopathic care of animals:
•     Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs, Don Hamilton, DVM
•     The Homoeopathic Treatment of Small Animals, Christopher Day, DVM
•     Dogs: Homeopathic Remedies, George Macleod, MRCVS, DVM

About the author:
Kristy Lampe, DIHom, currently wears three hats for NCH. She teaches theCharlotte Affiliated Study Group (ASG), she is the Volunteer Regional Coordinator for study groups in the south, and she is the ASG Coordinator (ASG Workshop at NCH Summer School, ASG Day at Conference, ASG Lending Library). She also works extensively to promote animal care using homeopathy and natural diets.