Last week I brought Bubba to the Baraboo Dog Park to see his friends and do his thing. At this stage of his life it’s mainly sniffing, getting petted and pooping. His crazy, hyper Boxer days are done.
One of the regulars was leaving with her dog and told me there had been a kennel cough outbreak at the park recently with at least a half-dozen dogs affected. The park had put up a warning recommending owners to keep sick dogs home and get healthy dogs vaccinated for their protection.
Most dog owners have a general sense of what kennel cough is, but in the last few years defining it has changed. It’s probably more accurate to talk about it as a complex as opposed to a single infectious organism.
True ‘kennel cough’ is caused by a bacteria called Bordetella. It is closely related Bordetella that causes whooping-cough in people. Kennel cough causes dogs and their humans to be miserable. They run a fever, have a continual barking, honking cough that keeps everyone up at night, and sometimes cough so deeply they vomit.
Vaccination is readily available to stimulate immunity against Bordetella. And as a pet owner, if you vaccinated your dog as recommended you would expect that your dog would be fully protected. But this is not entirely accurate.
Several reasons exist; the vaccines created have only been able to prevent shedding and reduce clinical signs, not prevent infection entirely. It means that if your vaccinated dog ingests or inhales Bordetella, it WILL trigger an immune response as expected, but may only be enough to prevent the worst coughing and minimize spread to other dogs. Most of the time this is enough to prevent any signs of disease.
We also now recognize that there are co-factors that contribute to the kennel cough complex. Environmental stresses, dose and virulence of pathogen ingested, immune response of the individual dog, and other infectious co-agents combine with Bordetella to cause cough. Some are well-known (Canine Influenza, Streptococcus), but some are not (Mycoplasma, Canine Coronavirus).
So what’s a concerned, responsible dog owner to do?
I didn’t keep Bubba away from the park. He’s vaccinated, and so I had faith he’d be okay and so far so good. Like kids in daycare, pets that come nose to nose with other pets are going to transmit things to each other. I keep Bubba vaccinated, I keep him home when he’s not feeling well, I sanitize his food and water dishes regularly, and if there was a coughing dog at the dog park, we’d say our goodbyes and come back another time.
Routine vaccination against kennel cough lessens the disease for the whole population of dogs. Hill-Dale is always happy to discuss any health concerns you have. Thanks for reading.