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Kennel Cough (Bordetella)

Kennel cough (also known as bordetella) is a highly contagious bacterial disease that can affect dogs, cats, and humans. Dogs are most commonly affected, though cats are often carriers of the disease, never showing any symptoms but spreading the disease to other pets and pet owners. For pets and pet owners, the disease is most common among those with compromised immune systems, such as the very young or the elderly, and extra precaution should be taken with both age groups.

A pet contracts kennel cough when they inhale particles of a virus or bacteria which then lingers in their respiratory tract, trapping the infectious particles and resulting in an inflammation of the trachea and bronchi. Several factors are believed to expose pets to these contagious particles, some of which include cigarette smoke; crowded and inadequately ventilated areas, such as a kennel or shelter; cold weather; stress caused by traveling long distances; and dust. If you suspect your pet to be experiencing any of these conditions in the near future, it is recommended that a bordetella vaccination be administered; however, please keep in mind that the vaccination cannot prevent all strains of bordetella, as the virus comes in various forms.

What are the symptoms of kennel cough? 

  • Cough that sounds similar to honking. 
  • Dry hacking cough. 
  • Eye discharge. 
  • Fever. 
  • Retching. 
  • Reverse sneeze. 
  • Runny nasal discharge. 
  • Sneezing.

Treating bordetella

Numerous tests can be performed to diagnose a pet with bordetella. Pets suffering from indicative symptoms usually have a complete blood count and chest X-rays performed. Additionally, the veterinarian may swab nasal passages or the throat for any discharge and send the samples to an external lab for testing. An external lab can tell the veterinarian exactly what type of microorganism is infecting your pet.

The most common type of kennel cough is relatively mild and does not need to be treated with antibiotics. The infection will run its course, similar to a fever or cold in humans. More severe infections will be treated with oral antibiotics for a period of 10 to 14 days, sometimes longer if the symptoms are more severe. If secondary health issues are a concern, such as pneumonia or dehydration, hospitalization might be required, so the veterinarian can administer IV fluids and additional antibiotics, as well as monitor the pet.

Because kennel cough is severely contagious, it is important to thoroughly sanitize an infected environment as soon as the contamination is known. Bowls, bedding, and litter boxes all need to be disinfected as well as any other object a pet has come into contact with.

If you have any questions about bordetella, feel free to contact our office at your convenience.

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