It seems like lately, we've been seeing a lot of dogs come in for coughing, and leave with a diagnosis of kennel cough. Most of these dogs have been vaccinated for kennel cough. So what is kennel cough, and why are vaccinated dogs contracting it?
Kennel cough, also known as Tracheobronchitis, is similar to the common cold in people. It's contagious and easy to pass around, especially in group settings such as boarding kennels and animal shelters. Also at risk are dogs who visit the groomer (even if the groomer comes to you), dog parks, daycares and pet stores. Dogs who meet through the fence, on walks around the neighborhood, and even in passing at the veterinary clinic, can pass along kennel cough.
A common cause of kennel cough is a bacteria known as Bordetella bronchiseptica. When your dog receives the kennel cough or Bordetella vaccine, he or she is being vaccinated against this bacteria. Dogs infected with Bordetella can also be infected with a virus such as Canine Adenovirus or Parainfluenza.
The vaccine for Bordetella is similar to that for human influenza-it does not protect against mutant strains. So your dog could become infected with a mutant or less severe strain even if vaccinated.
Symptoms usually begin 3-10 days after exposure. The most common symptom is the dry, hacking cough, sometimes accompanied by coughing up foam or phlegm. Other symptoms can include sneezing, runny nose, and discharge from the eyes.
Treatment of kennel cough includes antibiotics and sometimes a cough suppressant (if the coughing is keeping dog and owner up at night). Humidifiers can help as well, or even letting your dog in the bathroom with you while you take a hot, steamy shower. Some dogs may recover without treatment, but left untreated, it could turn into pneumonia.
Any persistent or recurrent cough should be brought to your veterinarian's attention as soon as possible. Any dog suspected of kennel cough should be kept away from other dogs and public areas. Keep unvaccinated dogs from contact with other dogs, even apparently healthy dogs, until they are fully vaccinated. And always make sure your kennel, groomer, and day care require proof of the bordetella vaccine (as well as distemper/parvo and rabies) before leaving your dog with them.
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