We are hearing this a lot at the clinic right now. We are seeing dogs that have been groomed, boarded, playing at dog parks or even some that practically haven’t left the house that are all coughing. Most complain of hacking and coughing, mostly at night, in a dog that is still eating, drinking, pooping and peeing normally. Sometimes it sounds like they are going to cough something up, but the only thing they work up is a pile of foam.
Almost all of these dogs are current on their Bordetella vaccine, often thought of as the Kennel Cough vaccine. So, whats going on!?
First of all, “kennel cough” is a confusing topic, even for veterinarians so don’t feel bad if you’re confused!
The vaccine they are referring to is actually for Bordetella bronchiseptica, a contagious bacteria that causes a hacking cough and snotty nose. Unfortunately, the “Kennel Cough” we see should more accurately be called Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex meaning it is caused by any number of different factors.
Multiple viruses (adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, pneumovirus) and bacteria (Bordetella, Mycoplasma, a canine strep) are likely culprits, but specialized tests using samples from the nose, eyes and throat are the only accurate way to determine the cause. The primary cause can also become complicated by secondary infections causing a much more serious condition!
Of the current cases we are testing, many are coming back negative for all components we vaccinate for which is definitely frustrating! Additionally, many tests come back negative for EVERYTHING they test for including eight respiratory viruses and three bacterial infections. Obviously, this makes us wonder/worry that there is a disease we haven’t identified yet that is causing sleepless nights (literally!) for dogs, their owners and their healthcare team (US!)
Thankfully, the cases in our area have been quite mild and are responding well to supportive care: rest, anti-coughing medication and sometimes antibiotics to prevent secondary infections. Most are well on their way to health within just a few days.
Veterinarians continue to search for the causes of this condition to develop better prevention and treatment. Additionally, we are constantly on the look out for canine influenza (dog flu) which is a much more deadly disease, but can look similar at first. As with the human flu, vaccines for dog flu are another complicated topic!
To best protect your pet, we strongly recommend vaccination for those respiratory diseases we can protect against, as this definitely lessens the chance of a severe and complicated infection.
Please feel free to reach out to us with any additional questions!
By Dr. Elizabeth Holland