"Kennel Cough" or Bordetella is a highly contagious illness of dogs caused by a combination of viral and bacterial infections. Bordetella generally occurs where there are a number of dogs confined together in an enclosed environment such as a kennel, dog show, grooming facility, dog park or pet store. Bordetella can be spread through the air as well as through contact with contaminated surfaces (sharing toys, bowls, licking, etc).
Bordetella is characterized by a harsh, hacking cough that people describe as sounding like "something stuck in my dog's throat". It is also known to sound like a gagging noise that tends to keep you up at night. Dogs may also vomit mucous after they cough. Symptoms usually begin 7-14 days after exposure and can last 1-3 weeks. It is limited to an upper respiratory infection but can progress to bronchitis or pneumonia. It is typically treated with antibiotics and a cough suppressant.
Some patients require chest x-rays if there are additional clinical signs and if pneumonia is suspected. All canines suspected should be seen by a doctor and isolated from other dogs for at least a week after symptoms resolve. During the summertime, our canine patients are more at risk for infection from socializing.
Vaccination is the best prevention! Bordetella is a vaccination given to aid in the prevention of "Kennel Cough". We routinely vaccinate against the viral portion which is included in the DHLPP vaccine. The bordetella vaccine vaccinates against both the viral and the bacterial portion. The vaccine is required by kennels and most groomers as well as any puppy classes your pet may attend.
We recommend you vaccinate every 6 months with the Bordetella vaccine since it is so contagious and ubiquitous within the environment. There are 3 different types of Bordetella vaccinations: intranasal, injectable, and oral. It takes 4 days to generate a solid immune response after the intranasal vaccination. The intranasal vaccine is the preferred vaccine as it offers more thorough protection against kennel cough, it starts working faster, and it does not require a 3 week booster when given for the first time. The injectable vaccination requires 7 days to develop immunity. If it is the dog's first time getting the Bordetella vaccine and the injectable vaccine is used it must be boosted 3-4 weeks after the first injection. The intranasal and oral do not need to be boosted.