We have reached the point of our preventative pet health care series where I will be discussing non-core vaccines, that is, vaccines for disease that an individual pet may not have geographic or lifestyle risk for. Bordatella bronchispetica is a very common bacterial causative agent for upper respiratory infection in with dogs. The disease is highly contagious and is spread through the air and by direct contact with mucus secretions, leading to a clinical disease known as kennel cough. It is known to tear through kennels and shelters with high morbidity but generally low mortality.
Although mortality rates for kennel cough are generally low, it should not be considered lightly. The human strain of bordatella is responsible for whooping cough in people (cross infection between species does not occur). Infected dogs typically exhibit a characteristic hacking cough that can seem as if they are trying to gag something up. Fever, lymph node enlargement in the neck, poor appetite, mucus discharge from the nose, and lethargy are common. Less commonly, infection can spread to the lungs, causing bronchitis, bronchopneumonia, or pneumonia. In these less common circumstances, there is typically a secondary opportunistic infection with particularly virulent bacteria that have an affinity for the lower respiratory system.
Risk factors for infection with bordatella include dogs that spend periods of time with other dogs, such as grooming, dog park, boarding kennels, and dog shows. Thus, for these dogs, bordatella vaccination is commonly recommended. Realistically, any dog can develop infection from another dog even with minimal contact, so some dog owners choose to vaccine their dogs for bordatella even if they do not necessarily fall into the high risk category.
There is an injectable and intranasal vaccine against bordatella commercially available. Although both options are safe and effective, I prefer the intranasal for its virtually non-existent adverse reaction rates.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.