At least one boarding kennel in the northern New Jersey area was recently affected by an outbreak of “kennel cough.” This generic term can refer to any of several viral or bacterial pathogens. Dr. Lori Walker and Dr. Ted Spinks of Animal Hospital of Sussex County collected vaccine data from affected dogs as well as sent out samples to the infectious disease laboratory at Cornell under the guidance of world-renowned virologist, Dr. Dubovi. Area veterinarians were also surveyed to determine which vaccines and protocols were being used.
This proved to be an arduous and frustrating task, but the ultimate deduction was that the most likely culprit was a virus called parainfluenza. This pathogen is covered in the DHPP vaccine that is commonly given every three years and is also included with the intranasal Bordetella vaccine.
Per Dr. Dubovi, this is NOT proven to be a new strain. The outbreak is more likely a result of individual immune response in a “hot” situation.
To clarify the use of antibiotics with “kennel cough,” it is to combat secondary bacterial infections, not the kennel cough itself. Parainfluenza and Bordetella, two of the most common pathogens causing kennel cough, are usually self-limiting. Unlike Canine influenza, they are usually mild with symptoms consisting of simply a hacking cough.
While we cannot 100% guarantee that our dogs won’t “catch something,” similar to sending a child to pre-school, there are certain precautions we can take to minimize the risk. We recommend dogs be vaccinated with the intranasal bordetella that includes parainfluenza a minimum of three days before exposure. This vaccine should be boosted annually. The DHPP vaccine is typically given every three years based on duration of immunity for distemper and parvo. The parainfluenza duration is somewhat controversial. Influenza vaccine for both known strains, H2N2 and H2N8, should be given at least two to three weeks before kenneling and boosted annually. By following recommended vaccine protocols and keeping general health and immune system at their maximum, we are giving our pets the best chance of fighting off illness.