Kennel cough is perhaps the most contagious and easy-to-catch canine health condition, and whilst it is one that is rarely acutely serious or fatal in healthy dogs, it is still painful and will make the average robust adult dog feel quite sorry for themselves for a few weeks.
In very young dogs, elderly dogs and those with a compromised immune system, kennel cough can be much more serious, however; increasing the risks of the dog developing secondary infections and posing a much more dangerous and acute risk to their health.
Fortunately, kennel cough is something we hear a lot less about today than we used to do up until a couple of decades ago, and many dog owners won’t ever even have heard that pained-sounding hacking cough that is the signature of the condition.
This is largely thanks to vaccination, and because enough dogs in the UK today are vaccinated against the most common type of kennel cough to serve to greatly reduce the risks of themselves catching it, and to limit the spread of it so that even unvaccinated dogs have lower risk factors too!
However, the kennel cough vaccination isn’t particularly well understood by dog owners, and even if you think back to your dog having their most recent vaccinations, the kennel cough vaccine might not have been included.
How the vaccine works and what it can and cannot do aren’t fully understood by most dog owners either, and so in this article we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about the kennel cough vaccine, and share some important information on its benefits and limitations. Read on to learn more.
Kennel cough vaccination protects dogs against the most common cause of kennel cough infection; the Bordetella bacterial infection. However, it only protects against this one specific bacterial cause of kennel cough, and there are other bacteria and also viruses that can cause kennel cough in dogs, which the vaccination does not safeguard against.
Kennel cough vaccination works by triggering your dog’s immune system to the presence of an invasive agent (the illness) but with the parts of the bacteria that can actually cause harm removed/deactivated, so it is totally safe!
This means that your dog’s immune system then “logs” the signature of the Bordetella infection in its memory bank as a threat, and so if they face it again in future, it sends the appropriate immune defence to see it off.
Not necessarily! Kennel cough vaccination is considered to be a non-core vaccination, and when your vet administered your dog’s combined vaccination shot in one syringe, kennel cough vaccination was not a part of this.
Virtually all veterinary clinics offer and strongly recommend kennel cough vaccination alongside of the standard combined vaccine, but this is administered separately and at an additional charge.
If you are unsure if your dog had the kennel cough vaccine or not, first of all check their vaccination card, and if you don’t have this or aren’t sure how to interpret it, call your vet directly as they will keep a record.
The kennel cough vaccine is generally administered as a nasal spray, not an injection as you might expect! As you might also expect, delivering a nasal spray to a dog can be something of a challenge, and you might recall the vaccine being given particularly well because your dog was potentially a bit of a pain about it, or was taken totally by surprise and reacted accordingly!
Generally, the kennel cough vaccine is given as a nasal spray. However, this may not be possible for all dogs; some dogs simply won’t tolerate it. Another potential problem occurs with dogs with stenotic nares (incredibly narrow nostrils, a conformation exaggeration that can be found in some dogs of brachycephalic breeds like the pug), as their nostrils may simply be too narrow for the nasal spray to be inserted.
In such instances, an injection can be given instead, but this is less common and usually only used if the nasal spray is inappropriate.
Kennel cough vaccination only protects dogs against kennel cough caused by Bordetella; and this is by far the most common cause of the condition. However, it is not the only kennel cough cause, and even a vaccinated dog could become infected by a different type of kennel cough.
Dogs need to be given a booster for kennel cough every twelve months, and this is almost always administered at the same time as their usual annual health check and the booster shots for their other vaccinations.
Without this booster, your dog’s protection against kennel cough will lapse.