Bordetella and Pets

Vaccination Required for Boarding Helps Prevent Kennel Cough

Beagle receives vaccination

Planning a vacation or holiday away? Whether your pet travels with you or spends his days making new friends at your neighborhood boarding facility, he'll need one important thing ahead of time: the Bordetella vaccine.

The Bordetella vaccine is a preventive measure to ward off a highly contagious bacterial illness that can be readily spread from dog to dog, cat to cat and dog to cat. Human transmission is also possible, so people who have a compromised immune system should avoid contact with infected animals.

Commonly referred to as kennel cough in dogs, Bordatella bronchoseptica infection isn't typically a life-threatening illness but some pets develop complications of pneumonia from the disease. Kennel cough is often a complex disorder caused by a combination of canine parainfluenza virus and Bordatella bronchoseptica bacteria. Other respiratory virusus have also been implicated in this multi-agent disease.

What is Bordetella?

Bordetella is a bacterial illness caused by Bordetella bronchoseptica that affects dogs and cats. When the disease is caused by a single agent it is known as Bordetellosis.

According to Animal Planet, Bordetella bronchiseptica organisms attach themselves directly to the cilia of your pet's respiratory cells in the respiratory tract, paralyzing them.

Once infected, dogs usually develop a harsh, hacking cough that sounds as though something is caught in their throat.

In cats, the infection causes signs of upper respiratory tract infection including sneezing and nasal discharge.

The Bordetella bronchiseptica organisms have a knack for knocking the immune cells out of commission that would normally fight the bacteria. Viruses are often involved resulting in a more complex respiratory infection of dogs and cats.

Symptoms can appear between two and 14 days after your pet has been exposed to the bacteria. The typical length of infection can be anywhere from four to 21 days.

"We tell clients that the best bet is to have their dogs or cats vaccinated two days to two weeks in advance."

How is Kennel Cough Treated?

Cat waits for veterinary examination

The good news is that kennel cough usually goes away without antibiotic treatment in dogs with a healthy immune system, much like the human cold. Uncomplicated kennel cough is usually treated with antitussives to suppress the cough and make the pet more comfortable.

More serious bouts of the illness can develop complications such as severe bronchitis and pneumonia. These pets need to be treated with antibiotics and bronchodilators. Pets that contract respiratory illnesses should be carefully monitored for complications and antibiotics prescribed as necessary.

Although kennel cough is rarely a serious illness, puppies and kittens can be more vulnerable to the risk of pneumonia than older pets.

What is the Bordetella Vaccine?

Due to the nature of their environment, dog parks, boarding facilities and veterinary offices are likely sources of kennel cough, which is why boarding facilities require dogs and cats to be up-to-date on their Bordetella vaccine prior to lodging.

Vaccination is usually recommended for high risk animals every 6 months. Your veterinary clinic will also require the vaccination should you decide to board your pet with them.

"We tell clients that the best bet is to have their dogs or cats vaccinated two days to two weeks in advance," says Carol Petyo, hospital administrator for the Yorba Regional Animal Hospital in Yorba Linda, Calif.

The 24-hour, state-of-the-art pet hospital also features a pet resort for both daily and overnight boarding.

"When I talk to pet owners, I compare the Bordetella vaccine to the human flu shot. Most parents won't send their children to daycare without a flu shot," explains Petyo. "Similarly, the Bordetella vaccine is for your pet's safety — you just don't know if someone else's pet already has the disease."

Dr. Steven Dunbar, the owner and founder of Yorba Regional Animal Hospital, urges pet owners to be proactive about the Bordetella vaccination. "These infections can lead to pneumonia, which is the most important reason for vaccinating."

Petyo also recommends that pet owners consider giving their pets a canine para influenza vaccine and a heartworm preventive before boarding or traveling from one area to another. "Give your pet the best protection you can."

How Does the Bordetella Vaccine Work?

Dog is examined by veterinarian

Like all vaccines, Bordetella works by exposing your pet to a small dose of nonpathogenic bordetella bacteria either by injection or by nose drops. The intranasal vaccine usually contains a modified live parainfluenza virus and a strain of Bordetella that does not cause disease.

The vaccine can also be administered by injecting an inactivated (killed) bacteria into the body. The advantage of the nasal vaccine is that the nose is where most dogs will pick up the disease. The disadvantage of the nasal vaccine is that some pets develop a mild respiratory disorder, especially after the first vaccination.

The idea of a vaccine is that it introduces the body to a nonpathogenic virus or bacteria so that the immune system can recognize it and fight against it in the future. Once the body finds a new agent to fight, it begins to produce antibodies, a human or animal's "weapon" against virus and bacteria.

"The Bordetella vaccine does not cover all strains of canine flu or upper respiratory infections," cautions Dunbar. "It does cover the Bordetella bacteria, which is one of the most common causes of upper respiratory infections."

The Bordetella vaccine is supposed to last up to six months but, according to Animal Planet, is only effective in about 70 percent of pets.

Discuss your pet's immunization plan with your veterinarian to determine the best course of care.


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