If you take your dog to a boarding facility, groomer, or the dog park, you’ve probably heard of kennel cough. You also may have heard of the kennel cough vaccine, also known as bordetella. In fact, your dog has probably had the bordetella vaccine.
I attended a lecture at the AVMA Conference in San Diego this year about kennel cough. Turns out, it’s not just a simple disease. It is very complicated and a lot of factors are involved in the disease, which respiratory disease specialists prefer to call Canine Upper Respiratory Disease Complex (CURDC).
Bordetella bronchiseptica is the bacteria we think of that causes kennel cough or CURDC, but it’s not the only player in the process. There are several viruses that also play a role. Most importantly, it turns out that dogs have to have a degree of stress and environmental changes to allow CURDC to occur. So even if your dog is exposed to Bordetella or the many viruses involved, they may not get the disease.
Vaccination for kennel cough is best done with an intranasal vaccine that contains the Bordetella vaccine, as well as one virus called Parainfluenza. The intranasal vaccine gives immunity more rapidly than the injectable form (which does not contain Parainfluenza). However, it’s not 100% effective. Your pet could still get kennel cough if the conditions are right, or if they are exposed to other pathogens that are involved. We only recommend the vaccine for dogs who are at risk, such as frequent boarding or exposure to lots of other dogs such as at agility trials or even the dog park. We also recommend the vaccine annually and not every 6 months.
What about Canine Influenza that's been in the news off and on over the years? Turns out that of the pets with CURDC sampled over the years, a very low percentage of them actually have Canine Influenza. It seems to be a virus that affects very few, localized areas like dog race tracks and occasional shelters. There is a vaccine for Canine Influenza, but at this time I don't recommend it since it's such a low-risk disease, and we don't have a lot of information about how well the vaccine works.
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