Kennel Cough is supposed to be a “very contagious” illness. And it does seem to “make the rounds” sometimes, as it is said to do. Yet in the decades I’ve been handling dogs and seeing them exposed to other coughing dogs, I’ve never once seen the symptom pass from one dog to another.
The reason why it’s called “Kennel cough” is because it has been known to afflict dogs in very stressful situations. There’s hardly a place more stressful for dogs than a kennel or an animal shelter. But that doesn’t mean “stress”, as it is commonly thought of, causes Kennel cough.
What is the cause of Kennel Cough then?
Being regularly mis-fed is enough to cause Kennel Cough on its own. That represents the biggest “stress” on the body, and is the primary cause. Insufficient exercise and highly stressful living conditions are remote secondary factors. These are the REAL “stresses” that cause Kennel Cough.
What IS Kennel Cough?
Kennel cough is nothing more than a dog cold. It’s the canine equivalent of the ‘sniffles’ that we humans typically get once or twice a year.
Incidentally, if you are still treating your own colds with remedies — homemade or manufactured — please stop. You must remember that your body is working hard to maintain its ability to function. It’s your job to simply cooperate. If you want to do that, this article on human colds might be helpful. Later in this article, I’m going to tell you how to do the same for your dog.
What does coughing accomplish in the body?
Coughing is not a bodily mistake! It’s one of the many mechanisms the body uses to mobilize and expectorate accumulated waste. Coughing, sneezing or any discharge of mucus all represent efforts on the part of the body to remove un-excreted waste. The symptoms represent part of the remedial process, as the body is striving to maintain or restore homeostasis (physiological equilibrium). The body produces symptoms of a cough to rid itself of toxic material that would threaten its survival if left unchecked.
Should coughing be stopped with remedies?
Knowing the above, why would we even consider suppressing a cough? The possibility that a dog could have an obstruction in his throat is always something that first needs to be ruled out when a dog has a cough. If an obstruction is found, would we leave it and simply “quiet” the body’s efforts to remove it? What a ridiculous idea. Yet that’s precisely what we will do if we “treat” Kennel cough. We’re not only damming up accumulated wastes, we’re adding to them, by administering substances the body has no use for.
Common remedies and why they “work”
Honey is the most common home remedy for Kennel Cough. The recommended dosage for a large dog is one teaspoon. An astute dog owner might wonder, “if honey is so good for dogs, why only feed them 1 teaspoon?“ The sugar is typically cited as the reason, but fruit also has lots of sugar. Dogs can eat entire meals of sweet fruit. The real reason is because honey is not food for dogs. Honey contains acids that the bees use to preserve it. You may have noticed that honey does not spoil at room temperature. What that means is that bacteria can’t even digest it.
Honey usually doesn’t have much effect on a coughing dog. When it does, it’s because it is suppressive. It interferes with the body’s ability to use the mucus membranes of the throat to move waste out via mucus. And even used in small amounts, these acids so burden the body that it is distracted from its task of secondary elimination. Honey cannot be used for fuel like fruit sugar can, so the body must spend its energy eliminating it. That means honey is doing nothing but forcing the body to retain the wastes it would otherwise choose to eliminate. Does that sound like a desirable goal?
Coconut oil is usually next on the home remedy list. It’s another inappropriate ‘food’ that only creates more problems for a body already in crisis. Like honey, coconut oil is touted for its “antimicrobial” properties. Using it to treat Kennel Cough makes the rather presumptuous leap that bacteria caused the problem in the first place. But did it? Did the bacteria bring the waste that is creating the body’s need to engage and inflame the membranes of the throat? Do flies bring garbage? Do maggots bring rotting meat? It’s the same idea. And, also like honey, coconut oil distracts the body by giving it yet another task to perform. Namely, elimination of this harmful highly processed product which has no place in a dog’s body. Using coconut oil to treat Kennel Cough is as counter-productive as using honey.
The number 3 most commonly recommended home remedy for Kennel Cough is cinnamon. This one is a particular head scratcher because nobody could argue for cinnamon being dog food. If you’ve ever had a dog that would willingly eat cinnamon, I hope you never left him unattended in your house. If you did, you’d probably come home and find him snacking on light bulbs. Cinnamon is another product offensive to very small life forms (like bacteria), and very probably ALL life forms. Humans are the only ones on the planet silly enough to consider it food, and they suffer in many unacknowledged ways for their folly. If you really think cinnamon is food, you’ll have to explain why it has this effect when eaten straight.
In humans, cinnamon is also promoted for its effect on ‘delaying gastric emptying’. What this probably means is that it causes a great deal of extracurricular work for the stomach in trying to get it into some form that will not cause harm further downstream. A body in the throes of a vicarious eliminative symptom like coughing does not need this extra burden! Cinnamon absolutely does not belong in the body of a dog, in any quantity.
Sleight of hand
The veterinary industrial complex hasn’t quite decided which microbial entity it’s going to blame for Kennel Cough. It keeps its options open by claiming that it’s caused by a “combination” of bacteria and viruses! Or, one without the other. One of those little buggers can always be trusted to turn up on site. And we know why by now, don’t we? Right. The bacteria are needed to the clean up the waste load. And the “viruses” are PART of the waste load, since they are 100% dead, powerless, discarded metabolic debris.
Almost ALL coughing dogs who see a vet are diagnosed with this ridiculous catch-all illness. Most often, vets perform absolutely no tests in order to diagnose a dog with Kennel Cough. If vets ever do look for microbes in a coughing dog and DON’T find the ones they usually associate with Kennel Cough, they are sure to find another little critter that they can blame the symptoms on. Then the “disease” will be given a different name, and you’ll be given a different prescription.
Do you begin to see how beneficial the business of diagnosing is, if the goal is to sell products? No matter what name they slap on that symptom, you are going to be buying a drug. If your practitioner calls him/herself “holistic”, “homeopathic”, “naturopathic”, etc., you’ll be sold a “natural remedy”. Mission accomplished.
How to PREVENT and RESOLVE Kennel Cough TRULY holistically
Holism is recognizing that the body is a unit. It’s precisely the opposite of the reductionism that veterinary medicine utilizes. The body is a system whose various parts all cooperate for the ultimate good of the whole. So, when a dog is afflicted with a cough, we need to understand WHY. The good news is that it’s not that hard to figure out!
Like colds in humans, Kennel cough is a self-limiting, CONSTRUCTIVE illness whose SOLE purpose is to cleanse the organism back to full functioning capability. It is caused by exactly the same factors that cause it in humans. Namely, accumulated wastes from indigestible foods, medications, herbs, remedies, vaccines, metabolic debris and anything else that the body can’t use and must eliminate. When this stuff piles up so much that the functioning of the vital organs is threatened, the body does the only thing it can do. It institutes the symptoms that will cleanse the body back to purity if LEFT ALONE.
Coughing may be the signature symptom of Kennel cough, but the other common symptoms may actually be accomplishing more than the actual cough. And those should be cooperated with as well. The other symptoms are:
Lack of energy – the body needs rest to catch up on its eliminative back log. It’s sending its energy inward, so less is available for outward activity.
Decreased appetite – food is work before it is fuel. Since dogs typically carry weeks of reserve fuel on their bodies, they have no immediate need of new fuel coming in. So, the body shuts down hunger. It happens when we have a cold, too. The ones who listen to their bodies and stop eating, get well. The ones who continue the same behaviors that caused the symptoms commonly see them escalate to “bronchitis”, “pneumonia”, and worse.
Fever – Heat is energy. It speeds things up. In the body, heat accelerates elimination. It’s that simple. The body goes to a great deal of trouble and expense to produce a fever. It knows what it’s doing, and it should definitely not be stopped.
Cooperating with the body
I’ve cared for lots of coughing dogs. The best thing to do for a coughing dog is to allow complete physiological rest. That means, no food (only water) and limited exercise until the symptom abates. This allows the body to devote almost all of its energy to healing and cleansing rather than digestion. The next best way is to greatly decrease the digestive burden by feeding lightly. In dogs who like fruit, a few days of fruit will usually allow the body to resolve the symptoms. I’ve used both of these methods, and they work without fail.
The main thing to do beyond that is to ponder what mistakes you’ve been making that led to this crisis of accumulation. If you’re not already feeding RMF, that’s where you’ll need to start. If you are, you’ll need to look at the quantities you’re feeding to see if you might be overfeeding or making other mistakes. This is the most powerful part of the way RMF deals with problems like Kennel cough. It puts control for your dog’s health back in your hands.