Our valley is blessed with a large and well-cared-for dog population. Dogs join us in everyday activities from hiking and going out for dinner to accompanying us at work. As you can imagine, there are many scenarios for dog-to-dog interactions, as well as the spreading of fomites and the contamination of objects. Most pet owners are very diligent about vaccinating their pets, and this includes the Bordetella vaccine aka “kennel cough” vaccine. So, why does your vaccinated pet show signs of kennel cough?

Bordetella Bronchiseptica is a bacteria commonly associated with respiratory disease. This bacteria is only one of several bacterial or viral agents that can cause upper respiratory infections. Kennel cough is a misnomer to describe an upper respiratory infection, also known as “infectious tracheobronchitis.” Just like the human flu vaccine, we give this vaccine to help prevent upper airway infection however it does not protect against all the possible agents. The vaccine should help limit the duration and severity of the symptoms but may not eliminate the risk of contracting an infection.

Another common misconception is that dogs who do not attend boarding or grooming facilities or the dog park are not at risk of becoming infected. Infectious agents are highly contagious, easily transmitted through the air (barking, coughing, sneezing) or direct contact, and are resistant to destruction in the environment. Direct contact with another dog serves as an easy risk for infection, however, dogs can also become infected by indirect contact. Your dog can pick up an infection hiking with you on a trail while no other dogs are presently around. People moving between infected and uninfected dogs can also serve as a vector. Moreover, signs of “kennel cough” may not develop until several days after exposure, which can make it difficult to contain the infection.

In addition to our vast local dog community, we also experience an increased number of vacationers with dogs visiting from all over the country. This increases the risk of spreading diseases and outbreaks. We are seeing new strains of the influenza virus and these symptoms can be similar to those infectious tracheobronchitis. It is important to let your veterinarian know the places you are traveling and to communicate any concerning symptoms to your veterinarian.

Contact your veterinarian to see what vaccines are indicated for your pet. Take precautionary measures of washing your hands and keeping your dog confined when they are showing upper respiratory symptoms.

Stay tuned for more information concerning canine influenza virus!

Reese Odenwelder, DVM