Q: I am planning to enrol my miniature Dachshund into doggy day care but they insist that he needs to be vaccinated against kennel cough every six months. Until now, he was only getting the vaccine once a year. Is it really necessary to have my dog vaccinated every six months for kennel cough or are they being overly cautious?
A: Boarding kennels, animal shelters and breeders constantly worry that their facilities will become infected with kennel cough and so they tend to be very strict about following vaccination protocols.
The term “kennel cough” came about because this disease can spread rapidly in confined areas such as boarding kennels. However, kennel cough is not restricted just to kennels. Dogs can pick up the disease anywhere that dogs congregate, including parks, pet stores, groomers, and street corners as well as from dog-to-dog contact. Transmission occurs through the air when an infected dog sneezes or coughs, or from contaminated surfaces or via direct contact.
Kennel cough occurs commonly and is a highly infectious disease among dogs. Also known as canine cough or tracheobronchitis, it is caused by viruses such as the parainfluenza virus, canine adenovirus, and canine respiratory coronavirus and by bacteria such as Bordetella bronchiseptica. (Bordetella pertussis, which causes whooping cough in people, is a cousin to these bacteria).
The symptoms of kennel cough appear three to five days after exposure and start with an inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, including the nose, windpipe and bronchi. This leads to a harsh, dry hacking cough that often ends with gagging or choking (as if there is something caught in the throat). There may be a fever, sneezing, loss of appetite and even pneumonia in severe cases. The disease can last for 10 to 20 days.
Treatment can include antibiotics if there is a bacterial infection and cough suppressants may also be helpful if the cough is non-productive (i.e. nothing is coughed up). Most dogs recover uneventfully.
As far as vaccination frequency is concerned, it really depends on your dog’s lifestyle and the potential for exposure.
When your dog receives his vaccinations for distemper and parvovirus, the adenovirus and parainfluenza virus vaccines are usually included. The Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccine, however, is given as a separate injection. Even though it is usually given annually, its protection only lasts approximately six months. In dogs that are at low risk (i.e. they do not come in contact with other dogs or rarely go to areas frequented by other dogs) annual vaccination is considered to be sufficient.
However, show dogs and dogs that frequently come in contact with other dogs (e.g. at parks, groomers, boarding kennels, doggy day care, etc.) should receive Bordetella vaccines every six months.
Dr. Bernhard Pukay is an Ottawa veterinarian. Address letters to Pet Care, Ottawa Citizen, P.O. Box 5020, Ottawa K2C 3M4. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org