Recently in the Chicago area, veterinarians have seen an increase in cases of kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis. This news story may have you wondering: what causes this uncomfortable disease and can it be prevented? What do I need to do to protect my own dog?
Kennel Cough Basics
Kennel cough is infectious, meaning that it can spread easily between dogs. There are a number of agents that can cause this disease, including bacteria and viruses. The most common agents that cause kennel cough are:
- Bordetella bronchiseptica (bacteria)
- Canine parainfluenza (virus)
- Canine adenovirus-2 (virus)
- Mycoplasma (bacteria)
- Canine herpesvirus (virus)
Viral infections often happen before a bacterial infection sets in, but Bordetella causes infections on its own.
Mild and uncomplicated kennel cough can occur quickly and the coughing can persist for just a few days to several weeks. Other symptoms include:
- Sudden onset of coughing
- Characteristic “Goose honk” sound
- Poor appetite
Complicated kennel cough happens when the lower airway becomes involved – not limited to pneumonia, weight loss, increased white blood cell counts, respiratory distress and even death. Complicated cases often involve immunocompromised pets.
How Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough?
Kennel cough is transmitted from dog to dog through nasal secretions. It is very contagious and can spread quickly – much like a cold virus in a children’s daycare.
If your dog has nose-to-nose contact with other dogs (even though a fence) or attends doggie daycare, goes to the dog park, boarding kennel or grooming salon – he or she is at risk of getting kennel cough.
Should I Vaccinate My Dog?
If your dog is at risk of infection, the answer is yes. Kennel cough vaccines (also known as Bordetella vaccines) are injectable, oral, or intranasal (those “nose drops” your dog despises!). The vaccine is typically given every 6 months. Since this vaccine is for a bacteria, the duration of effective immunity is much shorter than for viral vaccines (such as for Rabies virus). Most Bordetella vaccines will protect your dog as soon as 5-10 days after vaccination.
Puppies should be vaccinated for kennel cough before they are socialized with other dogs. The best time to socialize puppies is before 16 weeks of age. Most kennel cough vaccines can be given at around 8 weeks of age.
Most boarding facilities, doggie daycares and grooming salons require that dogs be up-to-date on the kennel cough vaccine. However, since kennel cough can involve viruses that aren’t included in the vaccine – vaccinated dogs can still be at risk. The benefit of having your dog vaccinated is that he or she won’t be as vulnerable.
My Dog Has Kennel Cough – Can I Get It Too?
It is possible for humans to catch Bordetella bronchiseptica from dogs, but this is uncommon. Most people who catch the respiratory illness are infants, young children and immunocompromised individuals. If your dog has been diagnosed with kennel cough – be sure to talk to your child’s pediatrician or your physician.