Common pooch malady preventable with vaccinations

Posted: Sunday, July 13, 2003

Many people believe that kennel cough is a disease that can only be contracted from a boarding kennel, but this is a common misconception that can lead to a sore throat for a canine whose companions don't know all the facts about this illness.

"A lot of people don't know what it is," said Janette MacDonald, owner of Sterling Moose River Kennel. "They've never even heard of it."

The truth of the matter is kennel cough, or canine infectious tracheobronchitis, as it is medically known, can potentially be picked up at a kennel, but also at the groomer, a dog show, a veterinarian's office or an obedience class.

Dogs can contract it any place where dogs congregate, and also can get it from exposure to just a single infected animal.

Kennel cough is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases in dogs and is caused by a number of different airborne bacteria and viruses.

The primary symptom of kennel cough is a dry, spontaneous, hacking cough that is easily and frequently induced.

At the end of a coughing spell, an infected dog may often retch and cough up discharge.

Other signs can include inflammation of the membrane lining the eyelids, nasal discharge, fever, depression, loss of appetite or reduced water intake. However, most dogs will continue to act lively and eat well, the constant cough being the only tell-tale sign of the illness.

Symptoms of the illness are not immediately apparent. Infected dogs often may not begin coughing until five to seven days after they contract kennel cough.

Animals suspected of having the disease should be isolated from other pets immediately to reduce transmission.

Most cases of kennel cough will resolve themselves in one to three weeks. However, all suspected dogs should be seen by a veterinarian to positively determine the illness.

Also, three weeks is quite a long period for a dog to feel ill or have a sore throat. Veterinarians can often prescribe a cough suppressant to make recovery more comfortable, or antibiotics to help prevent any secondary bacterial infections.

The best way to prevent the illness is to keep up with the annual vaccinations that all dogs should have.

The routine vaccinations can prevent most viral forms of kennel cough, but an additional Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccination is available to combat the bacterial agent associated with the disease.

A dog's regular veterinarian should be able to provide more information on which vaccines are available, how they work and how they are administered.

MacDonald requires any dog staying at her facility to be vaccinated against kennel cough prior to boarding.

"We make sure to keep a clean and disease-free kennel," she said.

She also offered a bit of advice to anyone thinking about boarding animals.

"It's a good idea to have the vaccinations done ahead of time, not at the last minute, or the day before dropping the dog off," she said. "This way if the dog has a reaction to the vaccination, the owner is still around."

This is sound advice because it gives the dog's immune system plenty of time to build up the necessary antibodies, without the added stress of worrying about where its owner has wandered off to.

Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He has worked with wildlife and domestic animals for more than 10 years as a veterinary technician, a zoo keeper, and most recently as a zoologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. He welcomes any pet-related questions or story ideas, but please none of a veterinary nature. Ideas and questions can be sent to his attention by e-mail at

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