Bordetella Kennel Cough

Bordetella, sometimes known as kennel cough, tracheobronchitis, canine infectious tracheobronchitis, or Bordetellosis, is one of the most common respiratory diseases of the dog population. The disease occurs in all parts of the world and will affect a majority of dogs sometime during their lifespan.

Humans must be careful when handling their dogs if they suspect bordetella, as some research indicates that bordetella may cause disease or infection in people, especially those who have weakened immune systems.

Bordetella Spread and Occurrence

A number of different organisms are responsible for the spread of bordetella, including:

  • bordetella bronchiseptica
  • canine adenovirus
  • canine herpes virus
  • mycoplasma
  • parainfluenza
  • reovirus.

Usually a dog will have more than one organism present for symptoms and infection to occur, though any of the individual organisms by themselves can cause a bordetella infection.

Signs and symptoms of bordetella generally begin to appear three to four days after a dog is exposed to the disease. Symptoms most often last about 10 days unless there are complications from other organisms or added infections. However, even after a dog is in good health and bordetella symptom-free, he may still shed bordetella organisms for six to 14 weeks, during which time he can still spread the disease to other dogs.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

Bordetella primarily affects the upper respiratory system in dogs. Symptoms of bordetella can include:

  • a dry, hacking cough (sometimes described as a cough with a “honking sound”)
  • fever
  • lethargy or laziness
  • retching
  • watery discharge from the nose.

In more severe cases, pneumonia or even death can occur. The most severe cases usually involve young puppies or dogs that have weakened immune systems.

Diagnosis of Bordetella

If your dog is exhibiting any symptoms of bordetella, see a veterinarian as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis. A bordetella diagnosis can be made based on observance of symptoms and a review of the dog’s history of contact with other dogs.

Bacterial cultures and blood work can also be done to identify the disease, but these are not necessary in all cases.

Treatment for Bordetella

Treatment options for bordetella will depend on the particular symptoms the dog is experiencing and the severity of the particular case.

In mild cases, antibiotics are generally not prescribed and the disease must simply be allowed to run its course. However, sometimes a medication is prescribed that can lessen the severity of the cough and make the dog more comfortable. Bronchodilators are also an option for treating coughing symptoms.

In cases where more severe symptoms are a problem, such as fever, lack of appetite and pneumonia, antibiotics are often prescribed. Bronchodilators are generally used as well. Steroids and cough suppressants must generally be avoided in severe or complicated cases of bordetella. In extremely severe cases, the dog may need to be put under veterinary or animal hospital care to ensure proper treatment and to prevent the dog from dying from the disease.

Bordetella Prevention Methods

The best way to prevent bordetella is to avoid letting your dog have contact with other potentially-infected dogs, especially puppies.

Another prevention method is vaccination. Bordetella has a nasal vaccination available that does not require an injection. The nasal vaccine also contains a vaccine for parainfluenza. However, the vaccine is generally only recommended for dogs that are at high risk for the disease, as it has some issues and must be used properly.