Blog Health

Pawsitively Protected: The Revolution of Oral Kennel Cough Vaccination for Dogs

Oral kennel cough vaccines offer convenient and effective protection for dogs against respiratory infections, reducing the risk of transmission in kennels and group settings.

Oral kennel cough vaccine

The oral kennel cough vaccine, often referred to as the oral Bordetella vaccine, is a vaccine used to protect dogs against Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is one of the bacteria that can cause kennel cough.

Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs, characterised by a persistent, dry cough. It is common in environments where dogs are in close contact with one another, such as boarding kennels, dog shows, and dog parks.

The oral kennel cough vaccine is typically administered as a liquid or tablet that is placed in the dog's mouth. It is one of several ways to vaccinate against Bordetella bronchiseptica, and other methods include intranasal vaccines and injectable vaccines.

It's important to note that while the kennel cough vaccine can help reduce the severity and spread of kennel cough, it may not provide complete immunity, as there are multiple pathogens that can cause the disease.

Additionally, the duration of immunity can vary depending on the specific vaccine used. Consult with a veterinarian to determine the most appropriate vaccination strategy for your dog, as they can assess your dog's individual needs and potential exposure risks.

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs. It is characterised by a persistent, dry, hacking cough that often sounds like a honking noise. Kennel cough is similar to a cold or flu in humans and is typically not a severe or life-threatening illness. However, it can be uncomfortable and bothersome for affected dogs and may lead to secondary complications if left untreated.

Kennel cough is caused by a combination of infectious agents, including viruses and bacteria.

The most common culprits are:

  1. Bordetella bronchiseptica: This bacterium is one of the primary causes of kennel cough. It can infect a dog's respiratory tract, leading to coughing and other symptoms.

  2. Canine parainfluenza virus: This virus is another common cause of kennel cough. It is often found in conjunction with Bordetella bronchiseptica.

  3. Other viruses and bacteria: In some cases, other viral and bacterial pathogens can contribute to kennel cough, making it a complex disease with multiple potential causes.

Kennel cough is highly contagious and can spread through the air when infected dogs cough or sneeze. It can also be transmitted through direct contact with respiratory secretions or contaminated surfaces.

Dogs in close quarters, such as boarding kennels, animal shelters, dog parks, and similar environments, are at a higher risk of contracting kennel cough.

Symptoms of kennel cough typically include the dry, persistent cough, retching, and sometimes nasal discharge. Most dogs with kennel cough remain alert and active, but the coughing can be bothersome. In mild cases, the infection may resolve on its own, but in some instances, especially if there are secondary bacterial infections, antibiotics may be prescribed by a veterinarian.

Preventative measures, such as vaccination and good hygiene practices, can help reduce the risk of kennel cough in dogs, especially those frequently exposed to other dogs in communal settings.

How do dogs get kennel cough?

Dogs can contract kennel cough, or canine infectious tracheobronchitis, through various means, primarily through close contact with infected dogs or contaminated environments.

Here are some common ways dogs can get kennel cough:

  1. Direct Contact: The most common way dogs contract kennel cough is through direct contact with infected dogs. This can occur during play at a dog park, in boarding kennels, or at training classes. When infected dogs cough or sneeze, they release respiratory secretions containing the infectious agents into the environment. Healthy dogs that come into contact with these aerosolized particles can inhale the pathogens, leading to infection.

  2. Contaminated Surfaces: Kennel cough pathogens can survive on various surfaces, such as dog bowls, toys, collars, and grooming equipment. If a healthy dog comes into contact with these contaminated items and then touches its nose or mouth, it can become infected.

  3. Airborne Transmission: In areas with poor ventilation, such as crowded or enclosed spaces, kennel cough pathogens can remain suspended in the air for some time. Dogs in these environments may inhale the pathogens and become infected.

  4. Stress and Weakened Immune System: Stress and a weakened immune system can make dogs more susceptible to infections, including kennel cough. Stressors like travel, changes in routine, or exposure to harsh environmental conditions can increase a dog's vulnerability.

  5. Underlying Conditions: Dogs with preexisting respiratory conditions or other health issues may be more susceptible to kennel cough. These conditions can weaken the dog's respiratory defenses and make it easier for the infection to take hold.

It's important to note that kennel cough is highly contagious, and even dogs that show no symptoms can be carriers and spread the disease to others. It's a good practice to keep your dog up to date with vaccinations, especially if they are frequently exposed to other dogs in communal settings.

Practicing good hygiene, such as regular hand-washing and cleaning and disinfecting pet items and surfaces, can help reduce the risk of infection and the spread of kennel cough.

What are the signs of kennel cough in dogs?

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, can manifest with several signs and symptoms in dogs.

The most common symptoms of kennel cough include:

  1. Persistent Cough: The hallmark sign of kennel cough is a dry, hacking cough that is often described as a honking noise. The cough can be frequent and may sound like your dog is trying to clear its throat.

  2. Sneezing: Dogs with kennel cough may also exhibit sneezing, often in association with nasal discharge.

  3. Nasal Discharge: Some dogs with kennel cough may have clear or watery nasal discharge, which is typically not as prominent as in other respiratory conditions like a cold or flu.

  4. Eye Discharge: Watery or slightly thicker eye discharge can also occur in some cases.

  5. Coughing Fits: Dogs with kennel cough may experience coughing fits, especially when they are excited, active, or when they pull on their leash.

  6. Retching or Gagging: The coughing may sometimes cause dogs to retch or gag, although they usually do not vomit.

  7. Mild Lethargy: Some dogs with kennel cough may exhibit mild lethargy or a decrease in their normal activity level.

It's important to note that kennel cough is typically not a severe or life-threatening condition, and most dogs maintain their appetite and overall good health despite the symptoms.

However, the cough can be bothersome and uncomfortable for affected dogs. In some cases, kennel cough can lead to secondary complications, such as pneumonia, especially in very young or immunocompromised dogs. If you are concerned about signs relating to kennel cough, you can use our Felcana Symptom Checker to find out if your dog needs emergency veterinary care.

If you suspect your dog has kennel cough or if they display any of the above symptoms, it's advisable to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and guidance on treatment and management. Isolating the affected dog from other dogs can help prevent the spread of the infection, and your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or other treatments if necessary.

Is there an injectable form of kennel cough vaccine?

Yes, there is an injectable form of kennel cough vaccine. The injectable kennel cough vaccine is typically administered via a subcutaneous or intramuscular injection, and it's an option for protecting dogs against canine infectious tracheobronchitis, which is commonly referred to as kennel cough.

The injectable kennel cough vaccine is used by veterinarians and is often preferred for certain situations, such as when a dog is already visiting a veterinarian's office for other vaccinations or medical care.

The choice between the injectable and other forms of the kennel cough vaccine, such as the intranasal or oral versions, can depend on various factors, including the dog's age, health status, and specific vaccination history.

Your veterinarian will recommend the most appropriate type of kennel cough vaccine and vaccination schedule based on your dog's individual needs and risk factors.

It's important to consult with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog receives the appropriate vaccinations and is protected against kennel cough, especially if they are at risk of exposure in environments where dogs congregate.

Can kennel cough vaccine be given up the nose?

Yes, kennel cough vaccine can be administered intranasaly, which means it is given through the dog's nose. This form of the vaccine is commonly referred to as an intranasal kennel cough vaccine.

Intranasal kennel cough vaccines are a liquid form of the vaccine that is sprayed into the dog's nostrils. The vaccine is absorbed through the mucous membranes in the nasal passages and respiratory tract, which helps stimulate the dog's immune system to produce a protective response against the pathogens that cause kennel cough.

Intranasal kennel cough vaccines are an effective way to provide rapid and localized protection against the disease. They are often used in situations where a quick immune response is desired, such as when dogs are about to be exposed to a higher risk environment, like a boarding kennel or dog show. However, it's important to follow the specific administration instructions provided by the vaccine manufacturer and your veterinarian for proper dosing and timing.

As with any vaccination, the choice of whether to use an intranasal kennel cough vaccine should be made in consultation with your veterinarian, who can recommend the most appropriate vaccination strategy based on your dog's health, age, and exposure risks.

How is the kennel cough oral vaccine administered?

The oral kennel cough vaccine is administered as a liquid or tablet, and it is typically given to dogs by mouth. The specific administration instructions can vary depending on the brand and formulation of the vaccine, but here is a general overview of how the oral kennel cough vaccine is typically given:

  1. Consult with Your Veterinarian: Before administering any vaccine, it's essential to consult with your veterinarian. They can determine if the oral kennel cough vaccine is appropriate for your dog and provide you with the specific product and administration instructions.

  2. Prepare the Vaccine: If your veterinarian has provided you with the oral kennel cough vaccine, follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper handling and preparation. This may involve mixing the vaccine or using a dropper to administer the liquid.

  3. Administer the Vaccine: Generally, the vaccine is given by placing it directly into your dog's mouth. Here's how you can do it:

    • Hold your dog gently but securely, ensuring they are calm and relaxed.
    • Depending on the formulation, you may use a dropper to administer the liquid into the back of your dog's mouth, or you may place a tablet in your dog's mouth.
    • Make sure your dog swallows the vaccine. You can gently hold their mouth closed until they swallow, or you can follow the specific instructions provided with the vaccine.
  4. Follow Instructions: Carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions and your veterinarian's guidance for the correct dosage and timing of the vaccine. Some oral kennel cough vaccines may require multiple doses for initial vaccination and boosters for ongoing protection.

  5. Record the Vaccination: Keep a record of the vaccination date and details in your dog's health records to ensure you stay up to date with the vaccination schedule.

It's important to note that the administration of any vaccine should be performed by a responsible adult who is comfortable handling and medicating the dog. If you are unsure about administering the oral kennel cough vaccine or have concerns about your dog's reaction to it, consult with your veterinarian, who can provide guidance or administer the vaccine for you.

How often do I need to vaccinate against kennel cough?

The frequency of kennel cough (canine infectious tracheobronchitis) vaccinations can vary depending on the type of vaccine used and the specific recommendations of your veterinarian. Kennel cough vaccines come in different forms, including injectable and intranasal vaccines, and each may have its own recommended vaccination schedule. However, some general guidelines can help you understand how often you might need to vaccinate your dog:

  1. Annual Vaccination: Some kennel cough vaccines, particularly the injectable ones, are administered annually. This means your dog may need to receive a booster shot every year to maintain protection.

  2. Semi-Annual Vaccination: Intranasal kennel cough vaccines, such as those delivered via a nasal spray, are sometimes administered every six months for continued protection.

  3. Lifestyle Factors: Your dog's specific vaccination schedule may also depend on their lifestyle and potential exposure to other dogs. If your dog frequently visits dog parks, goes to daycare, or participates in activities where they are in close contact with other dogs, more frequent vaccination may be recommended.

  4. Boarding Facilities: If you plan to board your dog in a facility that requires kennel cough vaccination, they may specify their own vaccination schedule or requirements, which you should follow to ensure admission.

It's important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate vaccination schedule for your dog. They can consider your dog's age, health status, lifestyle, and specific risk factors when making recommendations. Some kennel cough vaccines may offer different durations of immunity, so your veterinarian can advise you on the best product for your dog's needs.

Keep in mind that not all dogs require the same vaccination frequency, and your veterinarian's guidance is essential for tailoring the vaccination schedule to your dog's individual circumstances.

Disinfectants that kill kennel cough

To effectively disinfect and kill the pathogens associated with kennel cough, including Bordetella bronchiseptica and other viruses and bacteria, you should use disinfectants that are specifically labeled as effective against these microorganisms. Some commonly used disinfectants for this purpose include:

  1. Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats): These are a class of disinfectants often used in veterinary clinics and animal shelters. They are effective against a broad spectrum of pathogens, including those associated with kennel cough.

  2. Bleach: A solution of bleach and water (1:32 ratio) can be an effective disinfectant against kennel cough pathogens. Make sure to rinse surfaces thoroughly after disinfection to remove any residual bleach.

  3. Iodine-Based Disinfectants: Some iodine-based disinfectants are effective against Bordetella bronchiseptica and other respiratory pathogens.

  4. Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide: This type of disinfectant is effective against a variety of pathogens and is considered safe for use in veterinary facilities.

  5. Phenolic Compounds: Some phenolic disinfectants are effective against kennel cough pathogens.

It's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper dilution and contact time when using any disinfectant. Ensure that the disinfectant you choose is labeled as effective against kennel cough pathogens and safe for use in pet environments.

When disinfecting, focus on common areas and surfaces where dogs spend time, including crates, kennels, food and water bowls, and toys. Frequent cleaning and disinfection are essential to prevent the spread of kennel cough in multi-dog environments.

Consulting with your veterinarian or local pet supply store can also help you select appropriate disinfectants for your specific needs. Additionally, good hygiene practices, isolation of infected dogs, and regular cleaning and disinfection are important components of a comprehensive kennel cough prevention strategy.

Should I disinfect my house if my dog has kennel cough?

Disinfecting your house when your dog has kennel cough can help reduce the risk of the disease spreading to other dogs and may help prevent reinfection of your own dog. Kennel cough is highly contagious and can be transmitted through respiratory secretions and contaminated surfaces. Here are some steps to consider for disinfecting your home:

  1. Wash Bedding and Toys: Launder your dog's bedding, blankets, and any toys that they have been in contact with. Use hot water and detergent, and make sure to thoroughly dry them as well.

  2. Clean and Disinfect Common Areas: Regularly clean and disinfect common areas where your dog spends time, such as their crate or kennel, food and water dishes, and any surfaces they come into contact with. Use pet-safe disinfectants or a mixture of water and mild bleach (1:32 ratio) for cleaning.

  3. Isolate Your Dog: If you have multiple dogs, consider isolating the infected dog in a separate area of the house to prevent the spread of the disease. Use separate food and water bowls and designate separate walking and play areas.

  4. Frequent Handwashing: Wash your hands thoroughly after handling your dog, especially if you have multiple dogs. Kennel cough can be transmitted to other dogs via your hands, clothing, or shoes.

  5. Maintain Good Hygiene: Clean and disinfect any pet-related items and areas regularly, even after your dog has recovered from kennel cough. This helps prevent the recurrence of the disease.

  6. Consult with a Veterinarian: Follow your veterinarian's recommendations for treatment and isolation procedures. They can provide guidance specific to your dog's situation.

Remember that kennel cough can remain contagious even after the coughing has subsided, so maintaining good hygiene practices is important to minimise the risk of spreading the infection to other dogs in your household or any visiting dogs.

If your dog has kennel cough, it's also a good practice to notify any friends or family who may bring their dogs over, so they can take appropriate precautions to prevent transmission.

Can cats get kennel cough?

Cats can experience respiratory infections that are similar to kennel cough in dogs, but the specific term "kennel cough" is typically associated with dogs. The equivalent respiratory condition in cats is often referred to as "feline upper respiratory infection" or "cat flu."

Feline upper respiratory infections can be caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria, and they share some similarities with kennel cough in dogs. These infections are highly contagious and can be transmitted through close contact with infected cats or contaminated environments.

Common pathogens that can contribute to feline upper respiratory infections include:

  1. Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1): This virus is one of the primary causes of upper respiratory infections in cats. It can lead to symptoms such as sneezing, nasal discharge, and eye discharge.

  2. Feline Calicivirus (FCV): FCV is another significant contributor to feline upper respiratory infections. Cats infected with FCV may experience symptoms like sneezing, nasal discharge, and mouth ulcers.

  3. Chlamydophila felis: This bacterium can also be responsible for respiratory symptoms in cats, including sneezing and nasal discharge.

  4. Bordetella bronchiseptica: While more commonly associated with kennel cough in dogs, this bacterium can occasionally infect cats and lead to similar respiratory symptoms.

Feline upper respiratory infections can be particularly problematic in multi-cat environments, such as animal shelters, catteries, and households with multiple cats. Cats with weakened immune systems or kittens are especially susceptible to these infections.

Preventative measures, such as vaccinations against FHV-1 and FCV, can help reduce the risk of feline upper respiratory infections. Good hygiene practices, isolation of sick cats, and minimising stressors can also aid in prevention. If a cat shows signs of a respiratory infection, it is essential to consult a veterinarian for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Is kennel cough zoonotic?

No, kennel cough (canine infectious tracheobronchitis) is not considered a zoonotic disease. Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that can be transmitted from animals to humans, and kennel cough is primarily a respiratory infection that affects dogs. While it is highly contagious among dogs and can spread easily in canine populations, it is not known to be transmissible to humans. Kennel cough is caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria that are specific to dogs and do not pose a risk to human health.

That said, it is still essential to take precautions when dealing with dogs that have kennel cough, as the infection can be transmitted to other dogs through close contact or contaminated objects and environments. Proper hygiene and quarantine measures can help prevent the spread of the disease among dogs.