Misconceptions (Kennel Cough)

Kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis to give it its more correct title may be a relatively well known disease – with the distressing paroxysms of coughing that can persist for weeks it is perhaps not surprising that around 84% of dog owners are aware of the disease 1. Despite this familiarity many people remain confused about the causes of the condition, as well as how it is transmitted and prevented.

Significant risk to dogs

Kennel cough is a significant health risk for dogs that may be caused by a range of viruses and bacteria. However, surveys of respiratory disease outbreaks over many years reveal that the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica (Bb), as well as canine parainfluenza virus (CPi), are the most significant initiating infectious causes of respiratory disease. These bugs cause disease in their own right, but are also seen in combination with each other, as well as predisposing the dog to infection with other agents.

Data from CICADA, a national survey of infectious pet diseases reported by vets suggest there may be at least 65,000 cases of kennel cough seen by veterinary surgeons every year1 making it the country’s most widespread infectious disease of dogs. However despite the popular name for this disease it appears that more than half of reported outbreaks are likely to arise from day-to-day contact between dogs and not from kennels.

For example, a telephone survey of 50 veterinary practices2 looked into the origins of 270 kennel cough cases that had been diagnosed over a period of 30 days.

Not just a disease in kennels

The ‘at risk’ environments identified and listed by the participating practices included the local neighbourhood or park (30%), training classes (10%), dog walking (6%), dog shows (2%) and, unfortunately, even the vet practice itself. Collectively, these at risk environments exceeded the 44% of reports where kennels were suspected as the source. Clearly, kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that readily spreads wherever and whenever dogs mix or congregate.

Separate vaccination needed for Kennel Cough

What is concerning though is that it has been found that 77% of dog owners think their routine annual vaccination provides adequate protection against kennel cough. In fact, none of the routine injectable booster vaccines provide comprehensive cover against the most important causes of the disease. Vaccination given as drops up the nose are available for both of these important causes and are able to stimulate the best protection by stimulating immunity at the point at which infectious bug’s invade.

However it is estimated that only 10% of dogs receive these kennel cough vaccines annually. So if your dog regularly mixes with or meets other dogs or attends places where dogs congregate such as training classes or local park, ask us about additional cover against kennel cough.

1 You Gov survey, November 2009

2 Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health telephone survey, November 2009