Kennel Cough and Your Canine



Written by: Dr. Chip Coombs

It's time of year when people and families look forward to getting away to warmer climates or more exciting landscapes. Often, though, this away time doesn’t always include the four-footed members of the family and the challenge is how best to make this time apart enjoyable for them too.

While most cats and dogs would likely prefer to stay at home this, unfortunately, would not be a viable option. However, by employing the help of a family member or friend, or a home sitting service, your pet is less likely to feel stressed out while you are gone.  

For some owners and dogs, pet boarding ends up being the most suitable option. And, if this is the case, it’s important to conduct thorough research before settling on a place. For example, you’ll want to ensure that the boarding facility is clean, well-staffed and has a good reputation. It’s also extremely important to verify that the facility you are considering only allows dogs that are up-to-date on all vaccines and in good-health to stay with them. In addition to this, you will also want to ensure that your own pet is up-to-date on all of their vaccinations well in advance of your departure. You can do so by calling your veterinarian and confirming your dog’s vaccination status.

Arguably, the most important vaccination to ensure your dog is up-to-date on when it comes to boarding is that for Kennel Cough, also known as Infectious Tracheobronchitis. This is a respiratory syndrome caused by both a bacterium (Bordetella bronchiseptica) and virus (the principle one being parainfluenza, but this can be complicated by canine adenovirus and canine distemper).

Although vaccine manufacturers claim that the vaccine is protective for 12 months, many boarding facilities require it to be administered every 6 months, due to the close contact of the dogs. While Kennel Cough is not life threatening but it can be an irritation – literally and figuratively – with a dog constantly coughing and hacking, as though something were stuck in its throat. Often the clinical signs won’t show up until a few days after they have left the boarding facility. It is highly contagious but will respond to treatment with antitussives and, if deemed necessary, antibiotics. These drugs control clinical signs and, if mild, the infection simply runs its course over one or two weeks. But it is important to remember that an infected dog can remain contagious to other dogs for a couple of weeks after clinical signs disappear.

Cats, on the other hand, don’t have to worry about kennel cough. However, they are susceptible do get their own kinds of respiratory infections, especially if in close proximity to another infected cat, as can be seen in a boarding facility environment. But, as with dogs, if their vaccines are current such infections should not be a worry.

When it comes time to drop your pet off at your chosen boarding facility, you should always be sure to bring any special medications and instructions, as well as your and your veterinarian’s contact number. And, if you have pet insurance, be sure to leave those details with the facility as well. This will help make sure that both you and your pet will have a stress-free, happy and healthy vacation.