You can't always take your dog on vacation with you, and sometimes that means a trip to the kennel. Many kennels require their guests to be current on the kennel cough vaccine. Though a variety of organisms can cause kennel cough, the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common trigger. A bordetella vaccine containing live organisms can cause a mild case of kennel cough.
Where'd You Get That Nasty Cough?
It's easy for a dog to pick up one of the various infectious agents that cause kennel cough. He may have said hello to an infected dog, shared a water dish with a carrier or even just taken a breath of air where an infected dog recently coughed or sneezed. Given the highly contagious nature of the condition, it's little surprise boarding kennels require the vaccination and that animal shelters often make it part of their protocols.
So Many Irritants, One Nasty Cough
Bordetella bronchiseptica, parainfluenza 2 virus and canine adenovirus type 2 are the primary causes of kennel cough, however, a wide range of secondary bacteria can trigger it, including Staphylococcus, Mycoplasma, Streptococcus and Escherichia coli. When those organisms come together, they get to work irritating the lining of your dog's trachea and upper bronchi. That irritation causes the dry, hacking cough, which is the hallmark of kennel cough.
One Vaccination Can't Do it All
It's not possible to vaccinate your dog against all the potential causes of kennel cough because there are too many of them. The vaccine for kennel cough always addresses the most common cause, Bordetella bronchiseptica, and sometimes includes parainfluenza and adenovirus. Other standard vaccinations, such as canine distemper, provide protection against developing kennel cough from other agents. The vaccination can be injected or delivered via a nasal spray.
Vaccination Followed By a Cough
If your dog received a kennel cough vaccination and he's hacking anyway, there are a couple of reasons he may be showing symptoms. Perhaps his vaccine contained live organisms and he's responding to them. It's not unusual for the bordetella vaccine to produce mild or moderate upper respiratory infection symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, watery eye and nose discharge and a fever. If it's related to the vaccine, symptoms typically appear between two and five days after receiving the vaccine and stick around up to a week. It's also possible your dog picked up kennel cough from one of the various potential agents that aren't included in the vaccination protocol.
Time Heals the Cough
Generally, kennel cough will clear up on its own in one to three weeks. You can make your dog more comfortable by giving him some time in a steamy bathroom, which will soothe his irritated bronchi. Don't smoke around him and make sure he doesn't inhale strong fumes, such as household cleaners. Your vet can recommend or prescribe a cough suppressant to give him some relief. If his appetite or energy level decreases, let your vet know to ensure his cough is actually coming from kennel cough. Finally, make sure he's isolated from other dogs so he doesn't share his cough.