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Bordetella and Getting to Know How Your Dogs Feel About It


Bordetella and Getting to Know How Your Dogs Feel About It

Bordeaux Dog Embraced by a Woman After Bordetella Check up

Image: CC 0 by Public Domain, 947051, via Pixabay

Dogs remain as a part of our family. Naturally, you want to do everything to ensure their happiness and health throughout their lifetime with you. This includes knowing how to identify symptoms of common canine illnesses and how to prevent them.

Bordetella, also known more generally as a kennel cough, comes as one of the most widespread and contagious illnesses.  Hence, every dog lover should learn to recognize this.

Bordetella Is a Respiratory Illness

German Shepherd at the Veterinarian on his diagnosis for Bordetella

Image: CC by A-SA 2.0, Cheryl Cox, via Flickr

Bordetella is a form of bronchitis in dogs caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica. If you’ve ever had a chest cold, then you have an idea of what your dog can experience. B. bronchiseptica targets and inflames the trachea (windpipe) and the bronchi (branches of air passages in the lungs).

This results in a condition called infectious canine tracheobronchitis. It is highly contagious and can be mild to severe. This depends upon the age and health of the dog. While Bordetella bronchiseptica is rarely transmitted to people, this bacterium is related to Bordetella pertussis. Likewise, this causes whooping cough in humans.

How It’s Spread

It appears that there exist notable reasons why Bordetella gets nicknamed kennel cough. It exists very easily spread through close contact with other dogs as in boarding kennels or doggie daycare centers. The more stressed an animal is, the more susceptible it is to infection.  For the reason that the immune systems become weaker during times of stress.

Bordetella spreads quickly through a group of dogs. This appears similar as to how the common cold spreads easily among children at a school. Any place that has a large number of dogs present poses a risk. Some examples of its infection come from rubbing noses at a training class or sharing a food or water dish at the dog park. Even just being near another dog that sneezes or coughs transmit the illness.

Who’s at Risk

Dog at the veterinary To Recognize Symptoms of Bordtella

Image: CC 0 by Public Domain, 12019, via Pixabay

Bordetella is generally a mild illness in healthy dogs. Likewise, it clears on its own in a few weeks without significant treatment. It is much riskier for young puppies, with their immature immune systems. This appears similar for pregnant and older dogs, whose immune systems can be weak or depressed.

Bordetella is also risky for dogs with pre-existing respiratory conditions.  It comes as another type of active infection such as canine parainfluenza virus or canine parvovirus. Having a combination of illnesses stresses the immune system. This makes the symptoms of Bordetella acuter.

What Symptoms To Recognize

Symptoms of Bordetella begin to develop approximately two days to two weeks after exposure. As a respiratory illness, the most prominent symptom of a Bordetella infection is a dry, hacking cough. A cough is quite distinctive and may sound like a goose honking.

Mild cases will not generally affect a dog’s appetite or energy level, but persistent coughing can also cause retching or vomiting. Running and active play may bring on a coughing fit or make the symptoms temporarily worse. Symptoms may include:

  • Dry, “honking” a cough
  • Retching or vomiting following coughing
  • Discharge from the nose
  • White, foamy phlegm
  • Sneezing

In general, an otherwise healthy dog may experience just a few of these symptoms. Indicators of a more serious condition include fever and loss of appetite. Signs of pneumonia occurs similarly such difficult or labored breathing, dehydration, and lethargy.

Bordetella Treatment Options

A Dog at the Vet surrounded by techs

Image: CC by 2.0, Beth Army Medicine, via Flickr

What To Expect at the Vet

It’s always a good idea to take your dog to the veterinarian at any sign of a persistent cough. There are many other causes of coughing in dogs, and you need to rule out anything serious. You can expect the doctor to perform a physical exam and to ask if there’s been any recent contact with multiple dogs.

The doctor may gently induce coughing during the examination by applying light pressure to your dog’s windpipe. Because Bordetella produces such a distinct “honking” a cough, it is easily diagnosed with a clinical visit. No blood tests or X-rays are necessary unless your dog has other symptoms. It indicates a more serious condition such as pneumonia or another illness.

Typical Medications and Instructions

Once the veterinarian has determined that there is indeed a Bordetella infection, he or she will assess its severity. Mild cases will likely be sent home with home-care instructions. because an uncomplicated infection will clear without significant intervention within two to three weeks. Dogs with compromised immune systems or pre-existing conditions may receive an appropriate antibiotic to help prevent secondary infections.

All treatments depend upon the individual dog and how it is coping with the symptoms. The vet may also prescribe a cough and inhalant medications to ease more acute breathing issues. This helps to keep the patient comfortable during recovery.

Tips for Home Care

Dog resting on his shelter with mattress to show Bordetella Treatment Home Care for Dogs

Image: CC 0 by Public Domain, safepaws, via Pixabay

There are many things you can do to ensure that your dog is comfortable at home while recovering from a Bordetella infection. In addition to keeping it comfortable and warm, make sure to wash and clean its food and water dishes regularly with hot and soapy water. Keep the surroundings as dust- and smoke-free as possible. Airborne irritants exacerbate a cough and make breathing more difficult.

Using an air purifier can be helpful. However, make sure to check with your veterinarian before using a humidifier. To avoid pressure on the throat, take off your dog’s collar and use a harness instead. Excess pressure on the windpipe causes discomfort and may prompt coughing fits to begin anew.

Protect Other Pets From Infection

Because uncomplicated Bordetella is essentially a self-limiting infection, treatment will only manage the symptoms. It will not lessen the time that your dog is contagious. If you have a dog at home diagnosed with a kennel cough, be sure to isolate it from all of your animals.

Bordetella can be transmitted to cats as well as other dogs in the household. If possible, have your other pets vaccinated for Bordetella. Your dog will continue to be contagious for up to three months after an active infection has cleared. People often worry that their infants or children may contract Bordetella from an infected dog. This is highly unlikely.

Effects on the Household

There have been some studies linking immunosuppressed human patients with Bordetella bronchiseptica. However, the vast majority of those patients also had other active and severe respiratory illnesses. Also, don’t confuse the two organisms that are related and have similar names.

The bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica causes a kennel cough. It mainly affects animals such as dogs and cats. Bordetella pertussis, the cause of a whooping cough in people, appears as an entirely different organism and only affects humans.

Bordetella Vaccinations and Prevention

Dog during a Bordetella Vaccinations and Prevention from a Military Officer

Image: CC by 2.0, Beth Army Medicine, via Flickr

Protecting Young and Vulnerable Dogs

Most healthy and active dogs that contract kennel cough recover easily with at-home care. For those more vulnerable, including puppies, pregnant dogs, and seniors, you can keep them safe from Bordetella by simply keeping them away from other dogs.

Avoid dog parks and boarding kennels when puppies are young and still building their immune systems. Socialization and training with other dogs are imperative for young pups. Probably, try to limit their exposure only to dogs that you know are healthy and already vaccinated.

Types of Kennel Cough Vaccines

Most cases of a kennel cough are due to Bordetella bronchiseptica, but it is not the only cause of this illness. Parainfluenza virus and Adenovirus imply its responsibility for inflammation of the trachea and bronchi in dogs. Your veterinarian uses combination vaccines that include all three elements for more comprehensive protection.

Because of the highly contagious nature of a kennel cough, many boarding facilities, groomers, and even training courses require a Bordetella vaccine before you can bring your dog around their general population. Vaccines are administered in either 6- or 12-month intervals and can be given as an intra-nasal dose or as an injection.

Some studies have shown that the intranasal form of the vaccine works best on previously unvaccinated dogs (and puppies) and provides a quicker path to protection than an injection. For dogs that have been vaccinated with Bordetella before, yearly injections provide the best immunization boost.

Furry Dog being vaccinated at the vet

Image: Public Domain U.S. Airman 1st Class Ashley Thum, via Wikipedia Commons

Should You Vaccinate?

Deciding whether or not to vaccinate against Bordetella depends entirely upon your individual circumstances. Your dog may be at home with you most of the time and have limited access to other dogs. In this case, it might make sense to forgo a vaccination. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian.

Your doctor may also advise against vaccination if your dog is pregnant, sick, or has a compromised immune system. However, if you frequent dog parks, shows, and boarding kennels, your dog will be at higher risk of exposure, and a vaccination could help with prevention.

Final Thoughts

No vaccination is absolutely guaranteed against infection. There is always a chance that a vaccinated dog will still develop a kennel cough. If it does, however, this natural exposure to the bacteria (or virus) will offer some level of protection from future infections. Also, remember that most cases of a kennel cough are mild and easily treatable.

Caring for your canine companion may be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. The more you know about common illnesses, their symptoms, and their treatment, the better prepared. Now, you’ll be if you notice that something is amiss with your dog. Bordetella may have some dramatic and frightening symptoms.  Knowing what to do and what to expect from your vet help you stay calm and focused.


Featured Image: CC 0 by Public Domain, 947051, via Pixabay



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