Kennel Cough is an ailment that is common among dogs. Due to its name, people tend to associate it with kennels or boarding facilities. In actuality, your dog does not need to be kenneled or boarded to catch Kennel Cough. It is caused by an airborne virus, which is highly contagious. Any time your dog is in the vicinity of an infected dog (on a walk, at a dog park, or even the Vet’s office) the potential for infection exists. Some dogs are simply carriers and don’t display any signs of the virus, yet they can still transmit the illness. The incubation period is about 8-10 days, so more than a week can pass after your dog has been exposed to the virus before they start to show any signs of illness. As well, dogs that are socialized regularly tend to be less likely to catch the virus, as they usually have developed immunity to most pack-transmitted illnesses. This is why not every dog in a boarding facility will catch the ailment if there is an outbreak.
Although there is a vaccine (Bordetella) for Kennel Cough, it is often not effective in preventing all strains of Kennel Cough. This is because there exists many mutations of the virus that are ever evolving, so it is impossible to determine whether the vaccine your dog receives will be the right one for the specific strain they have been exposed to. This is very similar to the “flu shot” for people; each year a vaccine is developed based on the most prevalent strains. And likewise, just because one gets the flu shot, does not mean they are safe from that year’s strain of flu.
If your dog is in contact with other dogs, or near an area where dogs frequent, it is very possible that your dog will inevitably encounter the virus within their lifetime. Not to worry! Kennel Cough is simply the dog version of a common cold. For most dogs, once they catch it, they become immune to most strains and are unlikely to catch the cold again. In nearly all cases, Kennel Cough will run its course (within 2 weeks of the first sign of illness) without medication. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to prevent any further illness while the immune system is down. Parents of extremely old, young, and sick dogs should take extra precaution because of their delicate immune systems, and limit their exposure to dogs in general. Reputable boarding facilities will require the Bordetella vaccine to be given every 6 months in order to cover a broader spectrum of the potential strains.
For more information, always contact your veterinarian.