For most dogs, kennel cough is more a nuisance than a serious disease. Still, it can progress into a severe upper respiratory infection, especially in dogs with compromised immune systems. While one particular bacteria, Bordetella bronchiseptica, causes the majority of kennel cough cases, it's not the only culprit. Available vaccines target Bordetella and other kennel cough pathogens.
Formally known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough receives its common name because dogs often pick up this highly contagious condition after a stay at a boarding facility, grooming shop or other places containing large numbers of dogs. Animal shelter personnel wage a constant battle against it. Kennel cough's primary symptom -- in most dogs, the sole symptom -- consists of a honking, hacking cough. Other than that, affected dogs usually behave normally and eat well. The cough usually runs its course in about a week, but dogs can shed the Bordetella for up to three months. Take your dog to the vet if he exhibits symptoms. She might prescribe medications to ease the cough or antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection.
Your vet can vaccinate your dog against Bordetella with an intranasal vaccine. It's safe for puppies older than 3 weeks. An injectable vaccine is available, but the intransal version apparently provides faster initial protection. These vaccines also provide protection from parainfluenza. Neither vaccine is 100 percent effective, but both serve to mitigate serious effects of the disease. Your dog must receive an annual booster. If he's already infected with Bordetella, the vaccine is ineffective.
It's important to keep your dog current on his vaccines. One of the core vaccines protects against three agents that can contribute to kennel cough. That combination shot immunizes dogs against parainfluenza, distemper and the adenovirus. While the adenovirus causing kennel cough differs slightly, the vaccine still provides some protection. As a puppy, your pet should receive his first vaccination between the ages of 6 to 8 weeks, with two boosters administered by the time he's between the ages of 14 to 16 weeks. After that, he receives an annual booster shot.
While your dog should receive his core vaccines, discuss whether your pet requires an annual Bordetella shot with your vet. If he's pretty much a homebody, rarely encountering many strange dogs, he might not need it. However, if you're going on vacation and keeping him in a boarding facility, vaccination is a good idea and is often required. If your dog attends doggie day care, dog shows or is frequently exposed to other canines, he needs protection against Bordetella.