That Darned Hacking Kennel Cough!

Since the end of August we have been seeing an increased number of dogs with kennel cough compared to recent years. Talking with our clients, I have discovered that several of the doggie daycares and kennels on the east side and suburbs of Pittsburgh have had the same experience of an unusually high number of apparently subclinically infected (non-coughing) dogs passing the virus to others. This is the likely situation because kennels and daycares will not take in dogs who are actively coughing.

A very common question heard at Pittsburgh Spay and Vaccination Clinic is, “What is ‘Kennel cough’ and how can I protect my pet from it?”. To begin, Kennel cough is an old term that refers to a complex of respiratory diseases that is more properly identified as Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease or CIRD. Any one or more of a number of viruses, mycoplasmas and bacteria can cause CIRD. The symptoms of this disease complex are a pronounced hacking cough followed by a phlegm producing gag at the end. Sometimes the cough is accompanied by a mucoid nasal discharge with sneezing and a mild to severe fever. The later is more characteristic of canine flu, which fortunately has not been a common disease in the Pittsburgh area.

CIRD is caused by infection with one or more of the following pathogens: mycoplasmas; a bacterial organism named Bordetella bronchiseptica; and the viruses known as corona virus, adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, distemper virus, and influenza virus. All of these infectious agents are contagious and are spread by aerosol from one dog to another, especially those in close contact in boarding kennels, doggie daycare, grooming parlors, dog parks, etc. The incubation periods after exposure vary from several days to as long as several weeks. Fortunately, the mortality rate (except for canine distemper) is relatively low but the cough is uncomfortable for the patient and annoying to the family. CIRD of any cause can infrequently lead to a life-threatening pneumonia that requires antibiotic and respiratory therapy.

The adage that “prevention is the best medicine” applies in this situation. Fortunately, there are vaccines available to protect your pet against CIRD. The so-called “core” respiratory vaccines are those that are recommended for all dogs and include those vaccines that protect against distemper and adenovirus respiratory disease. The “non-core” respiratory vaccine recommended for all dogs who go to daycare, kennels, grooming, and dog parks is the Bordetella vaccine which helps to protect against the viral and bacterial components of kennel cough. On-going research to improve the canine flu vaccine may make it a recommended non-core respiratory vaccine choice in the future. It is best to check with our staff to determine which of these vaccines are appropriate for your dog and your situation.

Now is a great time to make sure that your dog is up to date on all respiratory vaccines, as well as the required Rabies vaccine, Lyme disease vaccine for your dog, and the Feline Leukemia vaccine for your cat, Double check with your boarding kennel prior to boarding to make sure what vaccines they require. (Some kennels also require recent negative fecal samples). Making an appointment with one of our veterinarians will assure your pet has everything he needs to enjoy the upcoming holiday pet boarding season. If you have any questions about vaccines and which ones are right for your pet, please give our office a call!

Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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