If you will be taking your dog to a boarding kennel, you should take your dog to the vet. In addition to the standard vaccinations, virtually all boarding kennels require that you also get your dog vaccinated against Bordetella or "kennel cough." Any time your dog will be in close proximity to other dogs, such as at dog shows, classes, or boarding kennels, it’s a good idea to take him to the vet for a bordetella vaccination first.
As with the common cold in humans, more than one organism may cause kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis. However, the majority of cases are caused by a bacterial infection that includes infection by an organism called Bordetella bronchiseptica, so the terms bordetella and kennel cough are often used interchangeably.
Although humans aren’t affected by bordetella, among dogs it can be extremely contagious because it spreads by coughed droplets. Although it’s possible for a dog to be infected by another dog that is some distance away, dogs are most likely to be exposed to germs in a place where there are a lot of other dogs, much like kids who go to kindergarten and get sick from exposure to a lot of other children. If a dog is already physically or emotionally stressed in some way, he’s also more likely to become ill.
Again, like a human cold, generally kennel cough isn’t a severe problem. But it’s definitely unpleasant for both dog and owner. The disease is characterized by dry hacking coughing fits that sound like the dog has smoked three packs of cigarettes. Often a coughing jag is followed by gagging or retching, so you may think that the dog has something stuck in his throat. The dog may have a fever, be listless, vomit, or lose his appetite. In rare cases, kennel cough actually can lead to pneumonia or other serious problems.
Because kennel cough can be caused by infection from several viruses, some vets don’t treat it with antibiotics. However, some do use antibiotics to prevent any secondary bacterial infections. Often a cough suppressant is prescribed to make the dog more comfortable.
As with most diseases, if prevention is possible, it’s far preferable to treatment after the fact. Two types of vaccines exist for bordetella: intranasal and injectable. The intranasal vaccine is administered directly into the dog’s nose, and it generally acts more quickly than the injectable version. The injectable version may provide longer immunity however.
Even the intranasal vaccine does take around four or five days to provide complete protection, so if you plan to board your dog, schedule that appointment for a vaccination today.