Q: My dog got a kennel cough vaccine two months ago. She came back from the kennel recently with a cough and a runny nose. Why didn't the kennel cough vaccine protect her?
A: Kennel cough complex (canine infectious tracheo-bronchitis) is the name that refers to a group of viruses and bacteria that are very contagious and infect the respiratory tracts of dogs. Infected dogs have a dry, hacking cough that can last from days to weeks.
The infectious agents are released into the air every time the sick dog coughs or sneezes. Dogs that share the same air are at risk for infection. Consequently, outbreaks commonly occur anywhere many dogs are housed closely together.
Luckily, most cases of kennel cough resolve on their own, rather like a cold for us. On occasion, supportive medications are needed. Rarely, unvaccinated young puppies can suffer life-threatening complications.
The kennel cough vaccine that your dog received was designed to protect her from Bordetella bronchiseptica, one of the more common bacterial causes of the disease. Canine parainfluenza virus and canine adenovirus can also cause respiratory illness. Your dog was likely vaccinated for those viruses when she got her puppy vaccines.
Canine reoviruses, canine herpesvirus, mycoplasmas and ureaplasmas are other causes of kennel cough complex. We do not have vaccines for these agents.
You and your veterinarian are taking all the right steps to protect your dog from kennel cough. Unfortunately, not all causes of kennel cough can be prevented. However, healthy, well-cared-for dogs like yours are the most likely to recover from the infection uneventfully.
Prepared as a public service by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society. Send questions to Pets, P.O. Box 1252, Buffalo, N.Y. 14205 or to the Web site at nfvs.online.org. Sorry, personal replies cannot be provided.