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Minnesota Veterinary Hospital Blog

Recognizing and Treating Kennel Cough


Bordetella Bronchoseptica, commonly known as kennel cough, is a highly contagious illness that can spread quickly among dogs and cats in close quarters. Although it typically isn't life-threatening, some pets develop complications after having kennel cough. The main causes of this illness are a combination of Bordetella Bronchoseptica bacteria and the canine influenza virus. The disease is called Bordetellosis when it's caused by a single factor.

Symptoms and Duration of Kennel Cough 
The micro-organisms that cause Bordetella attach themselves to the cilia of your pet's respiratory cells and paralyze them. This causes a dry, hacking cough in dogs like something is caught in their throat. The most common symptoms in cats are nasal discharge and sneezing. The virus can also affect your pet's immune system that would normally be able to fight off this threat. When that happens, it can lead to a more complex respiratory problem in both dogs and cats.

Companion animals usually develop symptoms between two days and two weeks after exposure. Once the virus is in their system, it can remain for as little as four days and as long as three weeks. It spreads easily in environments such as boarding facilities, doggy daycare, and dog parks. This is why Minnesota Veterinary Hospital requires a Bordetella vaccine for all pets staying in our boarding facility.

Treatment and Vaccines 
Similar to colds in humans, kennel cough typically goes away on its own without treatment in about two weeks. Our veterinarians don't normally prescribe an antibiotic for uncomplicated cases of kennel cough, but we can provide antitussives to help your pet feel more comfortable.

Pets with more serious cases of kennel cough can develop pneumonia and bronchitis. If your dog or cat's illness has progressed to this point, we treat it with bronchodilators and antibiotics. We also request that you carefully monitor your pet for possible complications and to report them to us right away.

We offer the Bordetella vaccine as an option for dogs and cats who are regularly exposed to other animals in enclosed spaces. If your pet falls into a high-risk category, we recommend that you get the vaccine every six months. If you plan to board your pet with us or another facility, it's best to get the vaccine two days to two weeks in advance. This ensures that the protection is in effect in time for your pet's exposure to other animals.

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