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Bordetella In Dogs

Learn about Bordetella in dogs, a highly contagious respiratory infection. Discover symptoms, causes, treatment options, and preventive measures. Essential information for dog owners and professionals.

Bordetella in dogs is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can affect dogs of all ages and breeds. This article explores the various symptoms, causes, and treatment options associated with bordetella in dogs. By understanding the potential risks and taking appropriate preventative measures, dog owners can ensure the health and well-being of their beloved pets. Whether you are a new or experienced dog owner, familiarizing yourself with this common canine condition is essential for providing the best possible care for your furry companion.

What is Bordetella?


Bordetella, also known as kennel cough, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that affects dogs. It is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella bronchiseptica. This bacterium can cause various types of infections in the respiratory tract, including kennel cough, tracheobronchitis, and even pneumonia.


Bordetella infections in dogs are primarily caused by exposure to the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica. This bacterium is commonly found in the nasal secretions and saliva of infected dogs. Direct contact with an infected dog, such as through shared water bowls or close proximity during play, can lead to the transmission of the bacteria.


The transmission of Bordetella bacteria can occur through both direct and indirect contact. Direct transmission happens when infected respiratory secretions or droplets are inhaled by a susceptible dog. Indirect transmission can occur when a contaminated object, such as a toy or food bowl, is shared between dogs.

Common Symptoms

Dogs infected with Bordetella may exhibit a range of symptoms that can vary in severity. Common symptoms include a dry, hacking cough, sneezing, nasal discharge, and lethargy. In some cases, dogs may develop a fever, loss of appetite, and even difficulty breathing. It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other respiratory infections, so a thorough diagnosis is necessary.

Types of Bordetella Infections in Dogs

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is the most common type of Bordetella infection in dogs. It is characterized by a persistent, dry cough that can sound like a honking noise. The cough may be triggered by excitement or exercise and can last for several weeks. Although kennel cough is usually mild, it can be more severe in puppies, elderly dogs, and those with weakened immune systems.


Tracheobronchitis is an inflammation of the trachea and bronchi, which are the large airways leading to the lungs. This type of Bordetella infection can cause a persistent cough, difficulty breathing, and throat irritation. Tracheobronchitis may lead to more serious complications, such as pneumonia, if left untreated.


In some cases, Bordetella infection can progress to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection that affects the lungs and can be life-threatening if not properly treated. Dogs with pneumonia may exhibit symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, rapid or shallow breathing, fever, and lethargy. Immediate medical attention is crucial in these cases.

Diagnosing Bordetella Infections

Physical Examination

When a dog presents with symptoms suggestive of a Bordetella infection, a veterinarian will perform a physical examination. This may include listening to the dog’s lungs to detect abnormal sounds or checking for other signs of respiratory distress.

Laboratory Tests

To confirm the presence of Bordetella bacteria, a veterinarian may collect samples from the dog’s respiratory tract. These samples can be taken through a procedure called tracheal wash or by swabbing the throat. The collected samples are then sent to a laboratory for testing, typically through a bacterial culture or PCR analysis.

Diagnostic Imaging

In some cases, diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays, may be necessary to evaluate the extent of respiratory infection and rule out other possible causes. X-rays can reveal signs of pneumonia, such as lung consolidation or increased fluid in the airways.

Treatment Options for Bordetella Infections


To treat Bordetella infections, veterinarians often prescribe antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria. Commonly used antibiotics include doxycycline, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. The duration of the antibiotic treatment will vary depending on the severity of the infection and the response to treatment.

Isolation and Rest

Infected dogs should be isolated from other dogs to prevent further transmission of the bacteria. Rest is also important to allow the dog’s immune system to fight the infection and promote recovery.

Supportive Care

In addition to medication, supportive care can help alleviate symptoms and aid in the recovery process. This may include providing cough suppressants, ensuring adequate hydration, and offering easily digestible food. It’s important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the best supportive care plan for the individual dog.

Preventing Bordetella Infections


Vaccination is an essential preventive measure against Bordetella infections. There are several types of vaccines available, including intranasal vaccines and injectable vaccines. These vaccines stimulate the dog’s immune system to produce protective antibodies against Bordetella. Regular vaccination, as recommended by a veterinarian, can significantly reduce the risk of infection.

Good Hygiene Practices

Maintaining good hygiene practices is crucial in preventing the spread of Bordetella. This includes regularly cleaning and disinfecting shared spaces and objects, such as kennels, water bowls, and toys. Washing hands thoroughly after handling sick dogs or coming into contact with infected areas is also important.

Avoidance of Exposure

Avoiding exposure to infected dogs and environments, such as crowded dog parks or boarding facilities with a known outbreak, can help reduce the risk of Bordetella infection. It’s important to be cautious when socializing your dog and to choose appropriate environments with low infection risks.

Managing an Outbreak of Bordetella Infections

Identification and Isolation

In the event of an outbreak, identifying infected individuals is crucial for containment. Infected dogs should be promptly isolated to prevent further transmission. Separation of infected dogs from healthy individuals within kennels, daycares, or boarding facilities is essential to minimize the spread of the bacteria.

Cleaning and Disinfection

Thorough cleaning and disinfection of contaminated areas is essential to eliminate the Bordetella bacteria. Using a disinfectant proven to be effective against Bordetella, such as quaternary ammonium compounds or sodium hypochlorite, can help ensure proper sanitation. It is important to follow the instructions on the disinfectant product for adequate contact time to kill the bacteria.

Quarantine Measures

Implementing quarantine measures is crucial to control the spread of Bordetella during outbreaks. Susceptible dogs should be kept away from the infected area until it has been effectively cleaned and disinfected. Quarantine periods may vary depending on the severity and duration of the outbreak, as well as guidance from veterinary professionals.

Complications and Risks Associated with Bordetella Infections

Secondary Infections

Bordetella infections can make dogs more susceptible to secondary infections, particularly respiratory ones. Bacterial or viral organisms can take advantage of the weakened respiratory system to cause additional infections, such as pneumonia. Prompt treatment and careful monitoring are important to prevent or manage secondary infections.

Respiratory Distress

Severe cases of Bordetella infections can lead to respiratory distress, especially in puppies, older dogs, or those with underlying health conditions. Dogs experiencing difficulty breathing, increased breathing effort, or bluish gums and tongue should receive immediate veterinary attention to ensure appropriate management and support.

Prolonged Recovery

While most cases of Bordetella infections resolve within a few weeks with appropriate treatment, some dogs may experience prolonged recovery periods. Factors such as age, overall health, and the presence of other infections can contribute to a slower healing process. Close monitoring and continued veterinary care may be necessary in such cases.

Bordetella in Puppies

Increased Vulnerability

Puppies are particularly vulnerable to Bordetella infections due to their immature immune systems. Their immune response may not be as robust, making them more susceptible to the bacteria. Additionally, puppies are often in close proximity to other dogs during socialization and training, increasing their chances of exposure.

Preventive Measures

Preventive measures for Bordetella in puppies include vaccination at the appropriate age, as recommended by a veterinarian. Ensuring a clean and hygienic environment, limiting exposure to potentially infected dogs, and practicing good hand hygiene are also important in protecting vulnerable puppies.

Early Detection and Treatment

Early detection and prompt treatment are crucial in puppies with Bordetella infections. Due to their higher susceptibility to complications, monitoring for symptoms and seeking veterinary care at the first sign of illness is essential. With timely intervention, the prognosis for puppies suffering from Bordetella can be improved.

Bordetella in Older Dogs

Age-Related Factors

Older dogs may be more prone to developing Bordetella infections due to age-related factors. Their immune systems may weaken with age, making them less capable of fighting off infections. Additionally, older dogs are more likely to have underlying health conditions that can compromise their ability to recover from an infection.

Immune System Decline

The immune system of older dogs may not respond as effectively to infections, including Bordetella. This can lead to a more prolonged and severe illness. Regular health checks, appropriate vaccinations, and good nutrition can help support a healthy immune system in older dogs.

Special Considerations

When dealing with Bordetella in older dogs, close monitoring and individualized treatment plans are essential. Due to the potential for underlying health conditions, a comprehensive veterinary examination may be necessary to address the dog’s specific needs. Additionally, supportive care and a tailored recovery plan can aid in the successful management of Bordetella infections in older dogs.

The Role of Bordetella in Canine Community

Spread in Dog Daycares and Boarding Facilities

Bordetella infections are commonly associated with the dog daycare and boarding facilities. The close proximity of dogs and shared spaces facilitate the spread of the bacteria. Stringent vaccination requirements, regular cleaning protocols, and proper isolation of infected dogs are crucial to prevent outbreaks in these environments.

Impact on Show Dogs and Competitions

Bordetella infections can have a significant impact on show dogs and dogs participating in competitions. Infected dogs may be unable to compete due to the potential risk of transmission to other dogs. Vaccination against Bordetella is often a requirement for participation in these events to ensure the safety and well-being of all dogs involved.

Educational Campaigns and Awareness

To mitigate the spread of Bordetella, educational campaigns and awareness efforts are vital. These campaigns aim to educate dog owners, breeders, and professionals within the canine community about the importance of vaccination, hygiene practices, and appropriate care. By increasing awareness about Bordetella and its impact, it becomes possible to reduce the incidence and severity of the infection in the canine population.

In conclusion, Bordetella infections in dogs, commonly known as kennel cough, can have significant health implications. It is important for dog owners and professionals within the canine community to be aware of the various types of Bordetella infections, their symptoms, and appropriate prevention and management strategies. Vaccination, good hygiene practices, and prompt veterinary care play a crucial role in reducing the incidence and spread of Bordetella in dogs. By understanding the significance of Bordetella and taking necessary precautions, we can ensure the well-being of our canine companions and the overall health of the dog community.

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