Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My Vaccinated Dog Has Kennel Cough?

Last week a puppy at work went home with kennel cough, and Monday afternoon Brisbane started coughing. Like all dogs at daycare, Brisbane and the puppy were both current on their kennel cough vaccine. So how did they catch it?
This has nothing to do with bordatella. Photo by Erin Koski.

Kennel cough, or infectious tracheobronchitis, is caused by the bordatella bacteria, but dogs that catch it usually have canine parainfluenza virus as well. The disease is spread through the air, and is highly contagious. Kennels, veterinary clinics, and doggy daycares use special cleaning products to kill viruses and bacteria on surfaces, but even the cleanest places see an outbreak of kennel cough occasionally. The disease can also be contagious before the dogs begin showing symptoms, so breaking the cycle of transmission is difficult.

The kennel cough vaccine is a lot like the flu shot for humans. Getting a flu shot will protect a person from certain strains of influenza, but it will not necessarily prevent them from getting the flu that year. What the vaccine will do, however, is help prepare the immune system response so that the disease will be less severe if the person does catch it. Kennel cough can be caused by a number of different agents, and vaccinating against it is a bit like trying to vaccinate against the common cold.

Brisbane is a magnet for kennel cough, this is the fifth or sixth time he's had it, and he was current on his vaccine each time. I stopped getting him vaccinated against kennel cough for a couple of years because we were not taking any classes or doing any activities that required it. He had the nasal vaccine almost a year ago, but still caught a very mild case last summer, while Ru had a much longer and more severe case.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, kennel cough usually improves after around 5 days and the coughing normally stops after 10-20 days. I will be waiting until the weekend to see if Brisbane is improving, if not he may have a secondary bacterial infection and need antibiotics. Because kennel cough is so contagious, veterinarians often prefer that dogs with upper respiratory infections not enter the building. For Brisbane's first case of kennel cough, his vet at the time came out to the car to hear him cough.

We were supposed to begin agility classes this week, but it looks like we'll have to postpone that for a while. We won't be making any more trips to the dog beach until Brisbane is no longer coughing, but we will still be visiting some of our favorite on-leash walking spots. It should be easy to keep Brisbane from sharing airspace with everyone but out-of-control off-leash dogs with rude owners. Instead of warding them off with "my dog isn't friendly" or "my dog needs his space", I can announce "my dog has vaccine resistant kennel cough, and now yours does too!"

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