Kennel cough a concern
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
In the past few years, our clinic has seen sporadic outbreaks of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (better known as kennel cough). We have seen these outbreaks once to twice yearly and these outbreaks have involved anywhere from 10 to 30 pets.
The protocol at our clinic when we see a coughing dog is to keep the dog confined in the owner’s car until there are no dogs in the waiting area. We then have the owners bring in the dog where we confine them to a designated room for examination. A thorough history is taken by our licensed veterinary technicians. We ask all owners if their pets go to daycare, grooming or boarding. Many times we discover these pets have been regular clients of a daycare or grooming facility and have never received any vaccinations to protect from Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease. These dogs then receive a full examination with a temperature check. The pet is sent home on medications and any area the pet has walked through is thoroughly disinfected. Any pets are withheld from the exam room for a period of 24 -48 hours.
If we have a patient that is not responding to the medications we have prescribed, then we highly recommend culturing for the causative agent and further testing with radiographs to determine if the causative agent has caused a progression from the upper respiratory symptoms to pneumonia.
Kennel Cough was once thought to only be caused by the bacterium Bordetella Bronchiseptica. This is a bacterium that is short lived in the environment and can be easily controlled by vaccination and proper disinfection techniques. But Kennel Cough can not only be caused by Bordetella, but by a multitude of viruses and bacterium, which include but are not limited to: Canine Coronavirus, Canine Adenovirus, Canine Influenza virus, Canine Herpesvirus, Canine Parainfluenza, Canine Distemper Virus, Mycoplasma bacterium, Strep Zooepidemicus, and Chlamydophila. Every one of these organisms has a different incubation period and duration of shedding from the pet into the environment.
There may be dogs that are presented to any facility that may be sub clinically shedding these organisms into the environment or to another pet and the veterinarian or groomer/boarding facility operator may be unaware of this. Therefore through direct contact with other dogs, these dogs may be transmitting any one of these organisms unbeknownst to the operator of the facility. This is why, as a boarding facility, we require all vaccines including the Distemper/hepatitits/adenovirus/ parainfluenza vaccine, Kennel Cough vaccine which includes Bordetella Bronchiseptica and sometimes Parainfluenza. We also recommend Influenza vaccine for those frequently groomed and boarded and the Kennel Cough vaccine every six months.
When we see an outbreak of kennel cough, our licensed technicians try to determine what these pets all have in common. Many times they have all been groomed or boarded at one facility in the past two weeks. To protect the identity of the facility, we never mention the name, but just let owners know that we have seen cases of kennel cough and highly recommend vaccinating and holding off on any grooming for a good couple of weeks. Our patients are our top priority as we have seen some kennel cough cases progress to more severe symptoms, especially in older patients. Unfortunately, we have seen many patients that are not regularly getting their vaccines.
Although no vaccine is 100 percent, vaccinating will lessen the outbreaks of disease and protect those healthy pets from unknown carriers. We strive to work with boarding/grooming facilities and highly recommend that these facilities also require yearly vaccines. Many of these organisms are shed into the environment and some only last a short period of time, where others may last for weeks to months. It is important to understand that kennel cough can be caused by a multitude of organisms and many times it is difficult to determine what the causative agent is. Symptoms of kennel cough include a harsh “honking” cough, a runny nose, sore throat, lack of appetite, fever, lethargy, and gagging up phlegm.
If your pet has been in contact with any other dogs in the past 7-14 days, they may have picked up one of the organisms responsible for causing Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease or Kennel Cough. We highly recommend calling your veterinarian as these symptoms can progress and lead to severe disease in your pets.