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Surprising facts about canine kennel cough

Veterinarian Dr. Lee discusses a common canine illness: kennel cough. She also shares information and tips on the Bordetella vaccination and other respiratory illnesses.

Surprising facts about canine kennel cough

Q:My dog, Remington, started coughing a few days after he came home from the boarding kennel. His Bordetella and influenza vaccines were current. Nevertheless, his veterinarian diagnosed kennel cough and started him on an antibiotic. Why did I bother having Remy vaccinated if the vaccines didn’t work?

A:You vaccinated Remington to protect him from several germs: Bordetella bacteria, two strains of influenza (flu) virus, and the respiratory viruses included in the distemper combination vaccine, including distemper, adenovirus and parainfluenza.

However, these are not the only germs that produce kennel cough, also called infectious tracheobronchitis and contagious canine cough complex.

Kennel cough is caused by many other organisms, including herpes and respiratory corona viruses, as well as Mycoplasma and Streptococcus zooepidemicus bacteria. Vaccines aren’t available to protect dogs from these germs.

It’s also possible that Remington was infected by one of the organisms for which he was vaccinated. This can happen in dogs with insufficient antibodies, usually because they were vaccinated within two weeks of boarding. 

Or Remy may have been stressed while boarding. Stress suppresses immune function, which increases the risk of infectious disease.

Finally, stress-induced barking irritates the throat, making what might otherwise have been a subclinical infection into full-blown kennel cough. Make sure your pet is prepared for kennel cough with dog insurance!


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com.

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