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Information on Bordetella for Your Pet

Canine Cough: Infectious Upper Respiratory Diseases in Dogs

Canine infectious tracheobronchitis (canine cough) is a highly infectious upper respiratory disease that is easily passed from dog to dog, much like the cold is passed between children. Canine cough can be caused by a number of different bacteria such as Bordetella bronchiseptica and viruses such as canine parainfluenza. The correct term is canine cough (not kennel cough) because this ailment can be present anywhere, not just in boarding facilities.

Canine cough in dogs will stimulate a coarse, dry, hacking cough about three to seven days after the dog is initially affected. It sounds as if the dog needs to "clear its throat" and the cough will be triggered by any extra activity or exercise. Many dogs with canine cough will cough every few minutes, all day long. Their general state of health and alertness will be unaffected; they usually have no rise in temperature and do not lose their appetite. The signs of canine cough usually will last from seven to 21 days and can be very annoying for the dog and owner. Life-threatening cases of canine cough are extremely rare and a vast majority of dogs that acquire the infection will recover on their own without medication. Cough suppressants and occasionally antibiotics are the usual treatment selections.

WHAT IS CANINE COUGH? Actually, clinical cases of canine cough are usually caused by several infectious agents working together to damage and irritate the lining of the dog's trachea and upper bronchi. The damage to the tracheal lining is fairly superficial but exposes nerve endings that become irritated simply by the passage of air over the damaged tracheal lining. Once the organisms are eliminated, the tracheal lining will heal rapidly. The most common organisms associated with canine cough are the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica, two viruses called parainfluenza virus and adenovirus, and even an organism called mycoplasma.

HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED? The causative organisms can be present in the expired air of an infected dog, much the same way that human colds are transmitted. The airborne organisms will be carried in the air in microscopically tiny water vapors or dust particles. The airborne organisms, if inhaled by a susceptible dog, can attach to the lining of the trachea and upper airway passages, find a warm, moist surface on which to reside and replicate, and eventually damage the cells they infect. The reason this disease is so common is that wherever there are numbers of dogs confined together in an enclosed environment, such as a kennel, animal shelter, indoor dog show, dog park or veterinarian office, the disease is much more likely to be spread. The same is true with the colds spread from human to human in an airplane, elevator or office. All it takes for contagion to occur is a single source (infected dog), an enclosed environment and susceptible individuals in close proximity to the source of the infection. Infected dogs can spread the organisms for days to weeks even after seeming to have fully recovered!

NOTE: Even the most hygienic, well-ventilated, spacious kennels have the possibility of a dog acquiring canine cough. Canine cough can be acquired from your neighbor's dog, from a champion dog at a dog show or from the animal hospital where your dog just went for treatment or vaccinations. Try not to blame the kennel operator if your dog develops canine cough shortly after that weekend stay at the kennel. There may have been an infected dog, unknown to anyone, that acted as the source for other dogs in the kennel.

HOW IS IT TREATED? Many dogs that contract canine cough will display only minor signs of coughing that may last seven to 10 days and will not require any medication at all. The majority of dogs with the disease continue to eat, sleep, play and act normally ... except for that annoying, dry, nonproductive coughing that seems persistent. It is always a good idea, though, to have any dog examined if coughing is noticed because some other very serious respiratory diseases might display similar-sounding coughing. Treatment of canine cough is generally limited to symptomatic relief of coughing with nonprescription  and occasionally prescription  medication. It can happen that secondary bacterial invaders will complicate a case of canine cough and prolong the recovery and severely affect the upper airway. Therefore, the use of antibiotics is determined on an individual basis.

HOW IS IT PREVENTED? Many dogs, exposed to all sorts and numbers of dogs, will never experience the effects of canine cough. Some dog owners, though, prefer to take advantage of the current vaccines available that are quite effective in preventing the disease. Since the chances of exposure and subsequent infection rise as the dog comes in close proximity with other dogs, the decision to vaccinate or not to vaccinate varies with each individual circumstance. NOTE: Longview Boarding & Grooming, LTD requires the appropriate vaccinations for pets to board at their facility. Dogs require DHLPP, Bordetella and rabies, and vaccinations cannot be performed within 10 days of boarding. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Any vaccine takes days to weeks to stimulate the dog's protective immunity to the disease. Vaccinating a dog the day it is exposed to the disease may not be protective. If you plan to board your dog or protect it from exposure, remember to vaccinate a few weeks prior to potential exposure to allow full protective immunity to build up. Also, a vaccinated dog can still develop canine cough, the same as humans who get the flu shot can still get the flu. The symptoms of the disease will be lessened and not as severe.

[Information collected from the website of The Pet Center, the Internet Animal Hospital, July 2008.]