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Health & Wellness

Why dogs with Bordetella shouldn't go to the park

And other places your pet should avoid.

Suppose your pup just got back from a brief stay at their boarding facility, and while they’re getting adjusted to being back in their space, you notice they have a developing cough. 

You might be familiar with kennel cough, an easily-spreadable upper respiratory infection, but have you heard of Bordetella? This bacterial condition actually causes kennel cough and is super contagious among pets. 

Unfortunately, Bordetella symptoms mimic other conditions, so it’s challenging to determine what’s behind your dog’s coughs. Here’s how your veterinarian will evaluate your pup’s sickness. 

What’s Bordetella in dogs?

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterial infection that’s just one cause of kennel cough in dogs, Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. It’s contagious and can lead to bronchi (the airways that lead to the lungs) and windpipe inflammation.

Canine influenza, canine parainfluenza and other respiratory diseases can look identical to Bordetella, so it’s important to talk to your veterinarian about the testing options to determine what your pup is struggling with. 

Bordetella symptoms in dogs

A cough, which is often dry but can have a hacking sound like a dog is trying to throw up or they have something stuck in their throat, is the main sign that your canine friend might have Bordetella, Dr. Singler says.

“Bordetella can also cause sneezing, nasal discharge and congestion,” Dr. Singler adds. “Rarely, it can lead to pneumonia, resulting in shortness of breath and lethargy along with the other previously mentioned signs.”

Take your dog to the vet whenever they develop a new cough or have other respiratory signs like sneezing and congestion. If your pup is lethargic or has trouble breathing, they should go to an emergency room. 

How do veterinarians treat Bordetella in dogs?

Sometimes treatment options for Bordetella include antibiotics, especially if a dog’s symptoms are worsening or developing pneumonia. Some pups can benefit from cough medicine to help them get some rest. 

Bordetella doesn’t usually have long-term effects; once a pup is treated, they’re usually fine. However, if a dog has a severe case, they may develop pneumonia which could potentially cause lung damage.

RELATED: Can dogs have asthma?

What’s the Bordetella vaccine for dogs?

There’s a Bordetella vaccine veterinarians can administer to help dogs’ immune systems be more prepared to fight off the infection. The shot stimulates immunity against the condition, which assists dogs in avoiding sickness or not getting as sick if exposed.

A small number of vaccinated dogs will still get sick if exposed, but they’ll likely have a much milder case than if they weren’t vaccinated, Dr. Singler adds. 

Because Bordetella isn’t the only cause of kennel cough, vaccinated dogs are still susceptible to catching that sickness. However, the vaccine will protect them against Bordetella-specific bacteria. 

The Bordetella vaccine can be injected under the skin, squirted up the nose or given orally. The intranasal (aka up the nose) and oral options directly bring the vaccine to the site where the infection entered a dog’s body, which can result in a faster immune response. 

However, not all pups will enjoy the vaccine being put in their nose or mouth, which is when the injectable vaccine might be a better option. 

Are there any side effects of the Bordetella vaccine for dogs?

The injectable Bordetella vaccine can sting when it’s injected under the skin. Some dogs may also experience soreness for a few hours or a day or 2 after vaccination. The intranasal vaccine can cause sneezing and sniffling after it’s given. 

Any vaccine can cause a mild fever, lethargy, decreased appetite and occasionally a lump at the site where the vaccine was administered. Most side effects are light, but you should call your vet if you have any concerns. 

On rare occasions, a dog can be allergic to the vaccine and experience facial swelling, vomiting, hives, itchiness and lethargy. Anaphylactic reactions can cause collapse and trouble breathing. Most allergic reactions are mild but should be evaluated by a veterinarian. 

How can you prevent Bordetella?

The best way to prevent Bordetella is to vaccinate your dog regularly and to limit their exposure to pets that may be infected, as the infection is very contagious, Dr. Singler says. Boarding facilities, dog daycares, shelters, parks, shows or anywhere where animals are close together are the most common environments for spreading infection.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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