How I Eliminated Our Dog’s Kennel Cough In 2 days With Herbs

Shi Yao Lian, Practitioner Buddha’s Alchemy

April 16, 2019

My littlest pup, Asha, came down with a case of kennel cough, which according to our vet has been going around. It was actually a week after her accidental exposure to another dog with symptoms that her symptoms manifested. Kennel cough is an acute respiratory illness in dogs that is highly contagious, caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica, and/or other viruses and bacteria. It is often thought to be a result of multiple co-infections that can vary from case to case. For this reason, vaccination is often unsuccessful in preventing kennel cough, as the vaccine covers only a limited number of pathogens. I kind of think of it as similar to flu vaccines – sometimes they match the circulating viruses, but sometimes they don’t.

As awful as kennel cough sounds, many cases are self-resolving with good care and rest within a several days to a few weeks. However, younger puppies and older dogs are at greater risk for developing complications like pneumonia, due to lower immunity and altered resistance. My own veterinarian doesn’t recommend treating with antibiotics immediately, but rather takes a wait and see approach. This is prudent given that in human medicine we are facing an unprecedented failure of antibiotics to treat increasingly virulent strains of bacteria and other pathogens. Our golden age of antibiotics is virtually over.

On the night of symptom manifestation, we started immediately treating Asha with raw honey. I added a little warm water to dilute for easy drinking. I gave her 1 tsp at a time when she started to have a coughing fit. She loved it, and it worked quite well to quell the cough, soothe the passages, and let her get back to sleep. Given that raw honey is demulcent and anti-pathogenic, it is the perfect remedy for irritated mucous membranes. She was awake a couple of times that night with strong spasmodic coughing, but slept in-between for about 3-4 hours at a time after having the honey. We also started medical chi kung treatments, with chi qualities that kill pathogens and soothe the cough. The next day, I added some herbs to my arsenal.

I’ve outlined the treatment strategy I used below:

  • raw honey for coughing spells, and as a carrier for tincture when needed
  • antiviral, antibiotic cough syrup containing: elderberries, astragalus root, licorice root, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger root, honey and coconut sugar
  • Echinacea angustifolia tincture,1:5 dried root (75% alchohol)
  • coconut oil
  • chi treatments with push and balancing chi to soothe cough and kill pathogens
  • house rest
  • pumpkin added to food if diarrhea is a side effect

    *Keep in mind that dosing for dogs follows the same principles as humans. An average human weight is presupposed at 150 lbs, and this is what most recommended human herb dosages are based upon. A comparison of your dog’s weight should be made, and the dose adjusted accordingly.

    As awful as kennel cough sounds, many cases are self-resolving with good care and rest within a several days to a few weeks. However, younger puppies and older dogs are at greater risk for developing complications like pneumonia, due to lower immunity and altered resistance.

    Asha’s coughing fits happened about every 4 hrs on day 1 as I continued with the above protocol, but became less severe. By evening, she had some loose stools in response to the herbs and their effects, so I decreased the dosages as her coughing continued to abate. Night 2 was much better, and she slept through the entire night without waking.

    At almost the 48 hr mark, Asha’s coughing had decreased dramatically, with almost no coughing spells during the day, and none at night, so for the rest of the treatment days, I kept the amounts of honey and cough syrup low as to avoid diarrhea. I continued with the echinacea tincture three times daily. I also treated my other girl, Nia, preventatively with a similar protocol, but with higher doses as she is larger. She manifested 2 single episodes of coughing in the following week, and that was it. Pretty successful given how contagious this airborne condition is.

    I continued the protocol for both of them past the last symptom in Nia. Their energy levels and appetite remained good. For us this was a good alternative to antibiotics and their side effects, and I happened to have all of the herbal remedies on hand and ready to go.

    Let’s have a quick look at the herbs and remedies used in this protocol:

    Raw honey: demulcent, antimicrobial, tonic, expectorant, antitussive, astringent. These properties make honey a perfect medicinal for a spasmodic cough.

    Elderberries: antiviral, antibacterial, diaphoretic, expectorant, transforms Phlegm and stops coughing, releases Wind-Heat. These properties make elderberries a potent antimicrobial and cough reliever.

    Astragalus root: immunomodulator, adaptogen, antibacterial, raises the Yang (to assist Lungs), stabilizes the Exterior. These properties make astragalus a very good adjunctive to the primary antimicrobials for supporting the Lungs and immunity (wei qi).

    Licorice root: harmonizes other herbs, assists distribution and assimilation of other herbs, detoxifying, tonic, adaptogen, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, antitussive, antispasmodic, antiviral, expectorant, and drains Fire toxins. These properties make licorice well suited to soothing the lungs, dispelling infection, and assisting the total formula to be more effective.

    Cardamom: carminative, stimulant, transforms Dampness. Used as an assistant to circulate the formula, and eliminate any phlegm.

    Cinnamon: carminative, antiseptic, analgesic, warms the Interior, dispels Wind-Damp-Cold. Used in the formula to assist uptake, to balance cold and Warm the interior, and to assist in dispelling pathogens.

    Ginger root: carminative, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, anti-toxin, releases Exterior Wind-Cold, transforms Phlegm and stops coughing. Ginger’s properties make it a perfect adjunctive to this formula for warming Cold, stopping cough, increasing uptake of the formula, and as an antimicrobial.

    Echinacea: carminative, antibacterial, antiviral, clears Heat toxins. Echinacea is a powerful antiviral and antibacterial, stimulates the immune system, and supports uptake of the formula via its carminative action.

    Coconut oil: Coconut oil is demulcent, soothing, and has antimicrobial properties.

    In a pinch for ingredients, and to simplify, Echinacea and raw honey could provide effective therapy on their own. The chi treatments were very useful however, and worked to provide immediate relief that was also long lasting. The next time your dog ails, don’t forget about herbs as a viable alternative for conditions that aren’t life threatening and are treatable with herbal medicine.


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