Infectious canine tracheobronchitis or canine infectious respiratory disease complex has multiple causative agents and its symptoms range from sneezing and bronchitis to inflammation of the throat. In plain English, it is Kennel Cough, the so-called common cold for dogs, which prevails in enclosed, poorly ventilated areas. Just like a child catches a cold at school, your dog can catch a similar type of upper respiratory diseases at doggy daycare or the grooming shop.
Kennel Cough symptoms are usually similar to a human cold, non-life threatening and mild. A hacking cough is a classic symptom of Kennel Cough. Other symptoms include reverse sneezing, fever, lethargy, phlegm, nasal discharge and sneezing. If your dog develops these symptoms, please take him to your veterinarian to ensure it is not canine influenza, which can lead to bronchopneumonia, or inhalant sensitivities, and does not develop into something else. Symptoms usually appear 7-10 days after exposure.
Kennel Cough Causes – It Takes an Army
No one virus, bacterium, or environmental condition can mount an assault on your dog’s body to produce true Kennel Cough. Yes; one perpetrator may be the general, but a general still needs an army to prevail!
1. Environmental and Quality of Life Factors
Pet-crowded gathering places such as boarding kennels or animal shelters can typically be the battlegrounds of kennel cough. Stress, parasites, malnutrition, poor ventilation, inadequate hygiene, dust and aerosols can predispose to Kennel Cough.
2. Kennel Cough Complex – Viruses
Your dog likely has been vaccinated and immunized for canine distemper virus and canine parvovirus, and they are the two most clinically important “core” vaccine components. I recommend that both of these vaccines be given in my minimal vaccination protocol.
Additionally, the following viruses are lumped within the respiratory “Kennel Cough Complex”:
Adenovirus-1 (CAV-1; infectious canine hepatitis virus) has only had one minor occurrence in the US in the past 15 + years (at the Canadian Maritimes, US border area). Vaccines for adenovirus-2 (CAV-2) are given to cross–protect against hepatitis as the vaccines for adenovirus-1 were removed from the market years ago, since they produced viral antigen-antibody deposits within some tissues and the surface of the eyes (“blue eye”). Due to the rarity of infectious canine hepatitis, and the fact that including CAV-2 in routine combination puppy vaccines causes a type of immune suppression for about 10 days, I do not recommend giving this component to puppies. They are vulnerable at this age to other stressors like going to a new home, wormings, food changes etc. The CAV-2 antigen in combo vaccines apparently does not cause this immune suppression when given to adult dogs, although one still has to consider whether to include vaccinating for a disease that is no longer seen. However, if a veterinarian chooses to include this vaccine component in combination shots, the immunity should last approximately seven years.
Parainfluenza (CPI) is non-life threatening and usually clears up within a couple of weeks. It is uncommonly diagnosed and typically not associated with significant clinical disease either, so I do not recommend it as a part of my vaccination protocol. Vaccinated immunity is around 3+ years.
Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) is either the H3N8 or H3N2 for which vaccines exist, but I do not recommend them because the symptoms are generally mild. Remember, many other upper respiratory viruses – known and unknown – are everywhere and peak during humid, hot and cooler weather seasons.
3. Kennel Cough Complex – Bacteria
Bordetella is the most well-known respiratory bacterium and a very common agent to provoke Kennel Cough but does not need to be present to produce Kennel Cough. This is the same with any other inhaled lesser known bacteria, like Bartonella or Mycoplasma, as they too need one or more aforementioned predisposing factor(s) to create actual Kennel Cough.
So why do many kennels and grooming facilities require Bordetella even though it may or may not be a factor in producing Kennel Cough? My dog is not parasitized, healthy, and up-to-date on viral vaccinations or has high titer levels for viruses.
Answer: It’s usually because of the perceived liability, an insurance issue, or a regional or state law. Essentially, a dog entering a facility could transmit kennel cough-like disease to the other dogs there. BUT, the unvaccinated dog coming into the facility could not transmit anything to others if they were all vaccinated and truly protected, so why not allow minimally vaccinated dogs to enter there, as long as pet caregivers sign a simple paper “holding the facility harmless”, should another dog there get kennel cough a week or so later? Of course, seeing that Bordetella and other upper respiratory vaccines are not 100% efficacious, this whole issue is somewhat moot. In my opinion, we should not be subjecting these dogs to vaccines against upper respiratory viruses or bacteria needlessly, as all vaccines have the potential to cause adverse reactions. Pet guardians who choose not to give these vaccines should have that choice.
Extenuating circumstances do exist where a pet caregiver must give the Bordetella vaccine to board a companion animal. My preference would be in-home pet sitting or having a friend take care of your pet. Things do happen and sometimes pets need to be boarded.
• Use the oral or intranasal (sniff) versions as they cause the body to release interferon which helps cross-protect against the other upper respiratory viruses. Injectable Bordetella vaccine does not offer this added benefit.
• Ensure that it is ONLY a Bordetella vaccine and not a combination injectable with adenovirus-2 and parainfluenza vaccines.
• Give it at a minimum (NOT a maximum but a minimum) of two weeks before boarding your pet.
“Bordetella: Does Your Dog Need the Kennel Cough Vaccine?” Truth4Pets, 21 July 2012. Web. 25 Oct. 2015. http://truth4pets.org/2012/07/kennel-cough-vaccine/.
“Kennel Cough in Dogs.” WebMD, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015. http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/kennel-cough-in-dogs.
Larson, Laurie J., Bliss E. Thiel, Patricia Sharp, and Ronald D. Schultz. “A Comparative Study of Protective Immunity Provided by Oral, Intranasal and Parenteral Canine Bordetella Bronchiseptica Vaccines.” 11.3 (n.d.): n. pag. The Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine, 2013. Web. http://www.jarvm.com/articles/Vol11Iss3/Vol11Iss3Schultz.pdf.
Schultz, Ronald, PhD. “What Everyone Needs to Know About Canine Vaccines.” Puli Club of America, 2007. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.