It’s that time of year again when kennel cough, also known as Bordetella bronchiseptica, often rears its ugly head. It seems like every fall when the weather cools, the fog rolls in and brings with it colds and flus for our fur babies.
Your dog may pick it up at the vet, at the dog park, from another dog met on your daily walk, or from our kennel. We say that it’s like a kid getting a cold at daycare, and a trip to the vet is not necessary because it usually will resolve itself within a few days. Unless the dog is very old, very young or has a compromised immune system, he or she should recover within a few days. The cough may hang on a little longer, but as long as your pooch is up and about and acting like herself after a few days, then she’ll probably be just fine.
Although all the dogs in our dog boarding facility are currently vaccinated for Bordetella, there are a minimum of 40 agents that cause it, and the vaccine often isn’t effective. Like the flu shot for humans, the vaccine only covers a few of the kennel cough strains that experts think might be in our area this year.
What to do if your dog gets Bordetella
Just like the virus that causes the common cold is carried by water vapor, dust and air, the bacteria and viruses that cause kennel cough also spread in every direction. When breathed in by a susceptible dog, the viruses attach to the lining of upper airway passages where the warm, moist conditions allow them to reproduce and sicken the pet.
Like some people who catch frequent colds and others who never get sick, some dogs are more susceptible to Bordetella, and others rarely or never get it.
If your four-legged friend gets kennel cough, it will sound like he has something stuck in his throat, and he may even throw up from coughing so hard. For partial relief of symptoms and to help the dog feel more comfortable, minor cases can be treated with Robitussin DM. However, this should be used only to relieve chronic, dry, unproductive coughing. Products containing acetaminophen or caffeine should not be given to dogs.
We personally like to give the dogs coconut oil, which is a natural antibiotic that also helps lubricate the throat to help with coughing. Honey, especially Manuka honey, is another excellent choice. Both coconut oil and honey are good for you, too, so take a teaspoon yourself while you’re at it. Your dog can have a teaspoon (or more, for larger dogs) three to four times a day, all year long, sick or not. It’s good for fur, for digestion and for a myriad of other things.
We also love essential oils and highly recommend them. Dogs can also have up to 500mg of Vitamin C three times per day, or half that amount for small dogs as long as the infection lasts.
Your dog’s best defense against infections is a strong immune system, which you can boost with nutrition, exercise and supplements. Keeping her off of antibiotics, if you can, also helps. Antibiotics also kill the good microbes, which are your most important defense against any infection, whether fungal, viral or bacterial.
The end of the Bordetella vaccine?
The WSU College of Veterinary Medicine recommends one vaccination per year for kennel cough. The live virus is injected or given as a nasal spray. We have always asked that dogs receive the vaccine more than four days before coming to our facility, so the live virus is not spread to other dogs. What we are finding from our research is that dogs vaccinated for kennel cough can shed the virus for seven weeks, meaning they will infect other dogs for weeks after their vaccination but will show no symptoms.
Many kennels in the U.S. are now choosing to not have their customers vaccinate for Bordetella to prevent dogs in the kennel from shedding kennel cough and influenza, which is sometimes included in the vaccination.
At our Whatcom County dog boarding facility, we are re-evaluating our requirement for Bordetella vaccines. We will be talking to local vets and conducting more research to find out what’s best for the dogs and best for our kennel; our overall aim is to protect dogs from getting exposed while in our care.