Is Kennel Cough Really the Right Term?

Whats in a name? Sometimes, the wrong message.


We’ve all heard of the illness commonly referred to as kennel cough, a hacking cough born of an upper respiratory tract infection that is particularly contagious when caused by a type of airborne bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica. That’s why many kennels require that owners show proof of vaccination again the illness before boarding their dog.

But that’s also why the term “kennel cough” is a misnomer. Responsible kennels that insist on proof of vaccination against the illness before taking care of a dog are among the least likely places your pet will end up with the infection. Incidence of the illness is not that common in any event, but more likely places of contagion are establishments where people bring their dogs casually and do not need proof of up-to-date vaccinations — dog grooming salons and pet supply stores that allow dogs to walk the aisles with their owners, for instance.

The vaccine is most important for young puppies because for them, the infection can become a life-threatening pneumonia. For adult dogs, the cough, while very uncomfortable, goes away on its own in less than a week.

If your dog comes into contact with other dogs, whether to give him vaccine boosters throughout his adult life is an option you should discuss with your veterinarian. Vaccination is not 100 percent effective because it only protects against the infection and subsequent cough caused by certain types of organisms. But one of those organisms is indeed the Bordetella bronchiseptica that easily spreads from one dog to another. Then, too, even if your dog does develop the respiratory illness after receiving the vaccine because she got it from one of the organisms the inoculation doesn’t combat, the severity of the disease and the length of time it lasts should be less than it would have been otherwise.


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