Difference Between Bordetella and Kennel Cough

Bordetella and kennel cough are two highly contagious respiratory diseases that affect dogs, often causing confusion among pet owners due to their similar symptoms and transmission methods. While they are closely related, Bordetella refers specifically to the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica, a primary cause of kennel cough. Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a broader term that encompasses a range of pathogens, including Bordetella and the canine parainfluenza virus. Understanding the differences between these two diseases is essential for effective prevention and treatment strategies. Further exploration of the causes, symptoms, and prevention methods can provide valuable insights into protecting canine health.

What Is Bordetella in Dogs?

Bordetella, a highly contagious respiratory disease, is a common affliction in dogs, particularly those in close proximity to other canines, such as in kennels or dog daycare centers.

The history of Bordetella dates back to the 19th century, when it was first identified as a distinct disease. Since then, research has shed light on the bacterium's ability to evade canine immunity, making it a persistent threat to dog health.

Canine immunity plays a vital role in the development and severity of Bordetella infections. Dogs with compromised immune systems, such as puppies or senior dogs, are more susceptible to infection.

The bacterium's ability to evade the host's immune response allows it to establish a foothold in the respiratory tract, leading to symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge.

Understanding the complex interplay between Bordetella and canine immunity is essential for developing effective prevention and treatment strategies.

Defining Kennel Cough in Canines

Commonly referred to as kennel cough, canine infectious tracheobronchitis is a highly contagious respiratory disease that affects dogs of all ages and breeds.

This disease is often spread through canine communication, such as barking, coughing, and sneezing, which facilitates the transmission of the infectious agents. Dog socialization, particularly in crowded areas like dog parks, daycare centers, and kennels, increases the risk of transmission.

Kennel cough is characterized by a persistent, dry, and hacking cough, often accompanied by sneezing, lethargy, and loss of appetite. In severe cases, kennel cough can lead to more serious complications, such as pneumonia.

While kennel cough is not typically life-threatening, it can cause significant discomfort and stress for affected dogs. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential in preventing the spread of the disease and alleviating symptoms.

As kennel cough is highly contagious, dog owners should take preventative measures, such as ensuring proper ventilation, hygiene, and vaccination, to minimize the risk of transmission.

Causes of Kennel Cough Disease

The primary causative agents of kennel cough disease are the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria and the canine parainfluenza virus, which work synergistically to compromise the respiratory system of infected dogs. These pathogens can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected dog, contaminated fomites, or airborne transmission.

Several factors contribute to the development of kennel cough disease.

Environmental factors, such as overcrowding, poor ventilation, and stress, can weaken a dog's immune system, making it more susceptible to infection.

The incubation period of kennel cough disease can range from 3 to 10 days, during which time the dog may not exhibit symptoms but can still transmit the infection to others.

Dogs with compromised immune systems, such as puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with underlying health conditions, are more likely to develop kennel cough disease.

Understanding the causes of kennel cough disease is essential in preventing and controlling outbreaks. By recognizing the role of environmental factors, incubation period, and immune system status, dog owners and caregivers can take proactive measures to reduce the risk of infection and protect the health of their dogs.

Symptoms of Bordetella Infection

Infection with Bordetella bronchiseptica triggers a range of symptoms, often beginning with a mild, dry cough that gradually progresses to a more severe, hacking cough.

As the infection advances, dogs may exhibit additional symptoms, including sneezing, nasal discharge, and lethargy.

In severe cases, Bordetella infection can lead to more serious complications, such as pneumonia, which poses significant risks to the animal's health.

If left untreated, pneumonia can progress to respiratory failure, a life-threatening condition.

It is essential for pet owners to monitor their dogs closely for any signs of illness and seek veterinary care promptly if symptoms persist or worsen.

Early diagnosis and treatment are critical in preventing severe complications and reducing the risk of long-term health consequences.

Transmission and Spread of Kennel Cough

Through close proximity and airborne transmission, Bordetella bronchiseptica can spread rapidly among dogs, particularly in high-density environments such as kennels, dog parks, and dog daycare centers.

This rapid spread is attributed to the highly contagious nature of the bacteria, which can survive on surfaces for extended periods.

To minimize the transmission of Kennel Cough, it is essential to implement preventive measures, including:

Social distancing: Maintaining a safe distance between dogs, especially in high-risk areas, can substantially reduce the transmission rate.

Proper ventilation: Ensuring good airflow in enclosed spaces can help reduce the concentration of airborne bacteria.

Regular disinfection: Regularly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, toys, and equipment can help reduce the spread of the bacteria.

Diagnosing and Treating Bordetella

After implementing preventive measures to minimize the spread of Kennel Cough, prompt diagnosis and treatment are vital to alleviate symptoms and prevent complications.

Accurate diagnosis of Bordetella infection typically involves a combination of physical examination, medical history, and laboratory tests, such as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) or ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay).

Treatment usually involves antibiotics, which can effectively combat the bacterial infection. However, it is essential to be mindful of antibiotic resistance, as overuse or misuse can lead to the development of resistant strains.

The treatment duration typically ranges from 7 to 14 days, depending on the severity of the infection and the dog's response to treatment.

In some cases, additional supportive care, such as cough suppressants or bronchodilators, may be necessary to alleviate symptoms.

Early and effective treatment can substantially reduce the risk of complications and promote a speedy recovery.

Prevention Methods for Kennel Cough

To minimize the risk of Kennel Cough outbreaks, pet owners and kennel operators can implement several effective prevention methods.

One key strategy is to maintain rigorous sanitation protocols, verifying that all surfaces, equipment, and utensils are regularly cleaned and disinfected. This helps to reduce the transmission of the Bordetella bacteria, which can survive on surfaces for extended periods.

Additionally, the following measures can be taken to prevent Kennel Cough:

Improve ventilation and air purification: Installing air purification systems or increasing ventilation in kennels and dog daycare centers can help reduce the concentration of airborne pathogens.

Practice good hygiene: Guarantee that all staff and visitors wash their hands frequently, especially after handling dogs or contaminated surfaces.

Isolate infected dogs: Separating infected dogs from healthy ones can prevent the spread of the disease.

Vaccination Against Bordetella Infection

Vaccination remains a crucial component of a thorough strategy to mitigate the risk of Bordetella infection, as it provides a robust defense against the pathogen.

The vaccine efficacy against Bordetella is well-established, with studies demonstrating a substantial reduction in the incidence and severity of infection.

Booster shots are often recommended to maintain immunity, particularly in high-risk populations such as puppies, kennel dogs, and dogs that frequent dog daycare or dog parks.

The vaccination protocol typically involves an initial series of injections, followed by boosters at regular intervals to maintain immunity.

The duration of immunity varies depending on the specific vaccine and individual factors, but regular boosters can safeguard continued protection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Humans Catch Bordetella or Kennel Cough From Infected Dogs?

While zoonotic diseases pose a risk, human transmission of Bordetella or Kennel Cough from infected dogs is unlikely. However, cross infection and respiratory risks exist, emphasizing the importance of proper hygiene and precautions to mitigate potential human transmission.

Is Bordetella the Same as Parainfluenza in Dogs?

Bordetella and parainfluenza in dogs share viral similarity, triggering a similar immune response. While distinct, both viruses contribute to kennel cough syndrome, with bordetella being the primary bacterial agent and parainfluenza being a viral cofactor.

Can Puppies Receive the Bordetella Vaccine Too Early?

As the puzzle pieces of puppy immunity fall into place, the timing of vaccine administration becomes vital. Administering the Bordetella vaccine too early can be like trying to build a castle on shifting sands – it may not provide adequate protection, and puppy immunity may be compromised.

Are There Any Long-Term Effects of Bordetella Infection in Dogs?

In dogs, Bordetella infection can lead to long-term effects, including pulmonary damage and respiratory scarring, potentially resulting in chronic respiratory issues and decreased lung function, emphasizing the importance of prompt vaccination and proper treatment.

Can I Use Essential Oils to Treat Bordetella Infection in Dogs?

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." When considering natural remedies for Bordetella infection in dogs, essential oils may seem appealing, but their efficacy is largely anecdotal. Aromatherapy benefits are promising, but consult a veterinarian before using essential oils, as their potency and potential interactions warrant caution.


Difference Between Bordetella and Kennel Cough

What Is Bordetella in Dogs?

Bordetella, also known as Bordetella bronchiseptica, is a type of bacteria that can cause respiratory disease in dogs. It is a gram-negative, aerobic coccobacillus that thrives in the respiratory tract of infected canines.

Defining Kennel Cough in Canines

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease affecting dogs. It is a complex condition involving multiple pathogens, including Bordetella, parainfluenza, adenovirus, and other viruses.

Causes of Kennel Cough Disease

The primary causes of kennel cough are viral and bacterial infections, including Bordetella, parainfluenza, and adenovirus. These pathogens attack the respiratory system, causing inflammation and irritation.

Symptoms of Bordetella Infection

The primary symptoms of Bordetella infection are coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge. In severe cases, dogs may experience pneumonia, fever, and lethargy.

Transmission and Spread of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough spreads through direct contact with an infected dog's respiratory secretions, contaminated fomites, or airborne transmission.

Diagnosing and Treating Bordetella

Diagnosis typically involves physical examination, laboratory tests, and radiography. Treatment usually involves antimicrobial therapy, supportive care, and rest.

Prevention Methods for Kennel Cough

Prevention methods include vaccination, proper ventilation, sanitation, and minimizing stress.

Vaccination Against Bordetella Infection

Vaccination is an effective way to prevent Bordetella infection. The Bordetella vaccine is typically administered intranasally or orally.


In the domain of canine health, the Bordetella bacterium and kennel cough disease are intertwined, yet distinct entities. Understanding their nuances is essential for effective prevention and treatment, ultimately safeguarding the well-being of our canine companions.

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