Kennel Cough, or Infectious Tracheobronchitis as it is properly known, is a highly contagious disease in dogs. The cause is quite a complex interaction of common respiratory viruses and a bug called Bordetella Bronchiseptica. It is the Bordetella Bronchiseptica infection that causes the very bad cases.
Once your dog has been exposed to the infection, it will generally take five to seven days before the signs of the disease are seen. Kennel cough usually causes a dry, hacking cough, runny nose and sometimes sneezing. The gagging cough and retching associated with this disease are upsetting for your dog and you. Depending on its severity, the signs of kennel cough can last from a few days to several weeks. However, even after the coughing has stopped, your dog can remain infectious for up to three months.
Kennel Cough is a social disease in that it is only spread by very close contact. When the dog coughs the bug is expelled in droplets and will immediately die unless inhaled by another dog. Accordingly, a dog can only pick up the infection when it shares common air space with an infected dog. This is one of the reasons that the illness has adopted the term “kennel cough”. Boarding kennels are an ideal environment for the disease to spread rapidly as large numbers of dogs are kept in unusually close contact.
Any reputable kennel will insist on a kennel cough vaccination prior to admitting a dog for boarding. This is an additional vaccination to the annual booster injection and needs to be administered by your vet at least 7-10 days prior to going into kennels. Puppies can be vaccinated from just two weeks of age. The vaccination is unusual in that it is given via the nose. This is due to the way the vaccination works. Instead of producing antibodies in the blood, it produces a local immunity in that the antibodies are produced in cells lining the nasal cavity. This means they are ready to attack the bug when inhaled. The kennel cough vaccination lasts from 6 months to a year, depending on the vaccine used by your veterinary surgeon, and will need to be repeated if another visit to the kennels is planned.
If your dog has not been vaccinated against kennel cough and contracts the disease it is worth having the vaccination immediately as it will help to shorten the length of the infection.
So, when making your holiday plans, entering your dog for a dog show or just going for a walk in the park, don’t forget to ensure that your dog is protected against infectious bronchitis.