Sick as a Dog: How to Prevent Kennel Cough and Other Hospital Acquired Infections

By Amy Milshtein

  • Sick as a Dog: How to Prevent Kennel Cough and Other Hospital Acquired Infections
Sick as a Dog: How to Prevent Kennel Cough and Other Hospital Acquired Infections

Want to know how to prevent kennel cough? 


Well, you can't. 


Kennel cough, also known as tracheobronchitis or Bordetella bronchiseptica, is everywhere. The highly contagious, upper respiratory infection is spread through the air by droplets secreted by other infected dogs. Dogs breath in the droplets, touch noses with infected dogs they meet on walks, or pick it up from contaminated surfaces like food and water bowls, toys or kennel runs. Seven to 10 days later your pup come down with symptoms. 


While there is no 100% certain way to prevent kennel cough, there are ways lessen the effects and lower the odds. 


But We Vaccinated!

Most dogs are vaccinated against Bordetella. Kennels, doggy day cares and pet boarding facilities often require proof of vaccination before any dog is admitted. The American Kennel Club advises that dogs that visit dog parks and training classes also be vaccinated. 


However, Bordetella is just the most common bacterial agent responsible for kennel cough. There are plenty of other organisms that can cause tracheobronchitis. Plus, as it takes weeks to build up true immunity to the disease, vaccinated dogs can still pick up Bordetella. However, much like a human flu vaccine, a vaccinated dog that contracts Bordetella will suffer less severe symptoms. 


Beyond Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, while uncomfortable and highly contagious, is rarely fatal. Symptoms include a persistent, forceful cough often described as a 'goose honk.' There may also be sneezing, runny nose or eye discharge present. Dogs that are in generally good health will probably not be lethargic or have a decreased appetite. Most cases usually resolve without treatment in three to six weeks


The story is much different with other, more serious hospital acquired infections. MediMedia Animal Health, which runs continuing education for vets, reports that hospital acquired infections are a growing problem in veterinary medicine. Risks include: 


  • Urinary tract infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Bloodstream infections
  • Surgical site infections
  • Infectious diarrhea
  • Feline leukemia
  • Parvo


While there are no statistics on exactly how many dogs and cats contract these much more serious diseases, we do know these infections can be devastating to pets and their owners. 


What Can be Done?

Hospitals serving humans know all about nosocomial infections and have strict procedures in place to prevent them. Pet hospitals, however, are only now moving to infection control protocols. According to a leading organization that provides continuing education programs for veterinarians, 'noncritical surfaces such as floors, walls, and countertops in veterinary facilities are more likely to be contaminated by pathogens than those in human facilities.' 


MediMedia outlines a mopping protocol to help prevent the spread of pathogens from the floor. The procedure includes: changing mop heads and cleaning solution at least twice a day or whenever visibly soiled, changing the solution and mops three times a day in 24-hour facilities, or after each shift and emptying, cleaning, disinfecting and air drying the mop bucket once a day. 


They also recommend adding an appropriate disinfectant to the cleaning solution, 'as simple detergents are frequently contaminated with pathogens that are then spread throughout the hospital.'


While this is a good start, it leaves a lot of opportunity for infectious pathogens to move through a facility. Mops don't fully get rid of dirt as much as spread it around a floor. Dipping the dirty mop back in the bucket contaminates the mop water and the added disinfectant becomes weakened and less effective the longer it sits in dirty mop water. 


A Better Plan

There is a better way to clean our pets' places, be it a veterinary hospital, clinic, day care or kennel. Kaivac's Spray-and-Vac systems appy fresh cleaning solution and disinfectant directly to walls, floors and other surfaces. After the appropriate dwell time, the surfaces are rinsed with a high-pressure fresh water spray. Then, the dirty solution is vacuumed up, leaving the area clean, dry and free of infectious dirt. 


Three dog business, Magnolia Kennel of Huntsville, Waggy Tails Resort and The Pet Station Country Club, recently introduced Kaivac into their cleaning protocols. All three are so pleased with the machines that they boast to their patrons about the state-of-the-art technology on their websites and blogs. 


So why there's no 100% effective plan to prevent kennel cough, a Kaivac Spray-and-Vac system goes a long way to making your pet business as clean as possible, making for healthier dogs and happier customers. 


Click here for more information. 

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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