Kennel cough is a respiratory disease that causes dogs to cough and wheeze, resulting in a sore or irritated throat. Dogs with an inflamed throat may have the desire to eat and drink but will likely have difficulty swallowing, and others won't want to eat at all. Soothing kennel cough is possible. There are ways to relieve your dog's irritated throat, such as providing hydration with ice water or broth, offering wet dog food only, or asking your vet for prescription cough suppressants for severe cases.
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Checking for a sore throat
Looking in your dog's throat to check for a sore throat likely won't be useful, so you might have to judge whether or not your dog has an irritated throat by watching his behavior. A dog might pace, lick his lips excessively, or make swallowing motions followed by a gagging-like cough or throat clearing. If he's been diagnosed with kennel cough, he will likely have a sore throat as a result of coughing. If he doesn't have kennel cough but is exhibiting signs of irritation, he might have something caught in his throat.
Causes of throat irritation in dogs
One source of cold-like irritation in dogs is kennel cough. Kennel cough is a contagious respiratory disease most commonly caught in places where large numbers of dogs are close together, such as kennels, hence the common name. The scientific term for kennel cough is "canine infectious tracheobronchitis." Most dogs recover from kennel cough but not without first experiencing a honking, goose-like cough and likely a sore throat.
Other causes of throat irritation in dogs are damage to the pharynx or throat by foreign objects that dogs, especially young ones, might accidentally eat, such as pins, needles, porcupine quills, bone fragments, or foxtail plants (which are very dangerous). Finding these items lodged in a canine's throat is more common than you might think. Obviously, foreign bodies need to be removed by a vet, and any resulting abscess must be treated. More extreme causes of dog throat irritation are cancers of the throat or mouth.
Soothing kennel cough naturally
Before you try homeopathic suggestions to relieve your dog's sore throat, such as herbs for kennel cough, try some traditional options first. A teaspoon of honey with meals can help relieve congestion. Honey is safe for dogs in small amounts and is purported to reduce inflammation, but there are no conclusive studies to support this claim.
Another option is old-fashioned fluids. If your dog won't drink more water than usual, try chicken broth but not chicken broth for humans, as it might contain onions or high amounts of sodium. Broth made specifically for dogs is available, or you can make your own using chicken and water. Also, sitting in a steamy room, like a bathroom after a hot shower, can also help, and so can plenty of rest.
Other ways to soothe kennel cough
Using over-the-counter cough suppressants intended for people isn't recommended for dogs, and products containing acetaminophen or caffeine should never be given to dogs, as both ingredients are extremely toxic. If a fever develops or if the cough is severe for more than a few days, a vet might prescribe a cough suppressant or antibiotics.
Also, try feeding your dog only wet food to make eating easier on his throat. Ultimately, prevention is the best medicine, so vaccinate for kennel cough if you are boarding or going to public dog parks. Most dog boarding facilities require Bordetella vaccination, which is administered as a squirt in the nose.