Vaccine Resistant Kennel Cough Strain Spreading in Southeast

| Published on September 15, 2020

A new strain of kennel cough is rapidly spreading in classic 2020 style. Veterinarians in the coastal North Carolina city of Wilmington are urging dog families to exercise caution. The outbreak has even led to the temporary suspension of some dog care services at area clinics. Could the disease spread wider?

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a highly contagious infection that attacks the respiratory system of dogs. It is passed from dog to dog through droplets from the respiratory system such as coughs or sneezes. The American Kennel Association reports the following symptoms in a dog infected with kennel cough:

  • a strong cough, often with a “honking” sound – this is the most obvious symptom
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • low fever

The Bordetella Vaccine Usually Protects Dogs from Kennel Cough

Puppies receive a vaccination that protects them from kennel cough as part of the routine recommended vaccination schedule. The vaccine is first given in two doses two to four weeks apart. Boosters are given every six to twelve months after that. The vaccine targets the Bordetella bacterium. This is the bacterium that most commonly causes kennel cough infection. 

sick dog

The Vaccine Is Not Effective Because Of A New Bacterium Strain

Wilmington, North Carolina Vets are seeing a big uptick in kennel cough cases. However, these new cases are not being caused by the Bordetella bacterium. Dr. Chad Joplin of Atlantic Animal Hospital told WECT, “We have a lot of tests out to a reference laboratory, and we’ve been talking to clinics around town. What we are seeing is a different bacteria called Mycoplasma and that’s something that we don’t regularly vaccinate for.”

Vets Are Urging Dog Parents To Use Caution To Help Slow The Spread

Kennel cough is thus named because it spreads rapidly amongst dogs that are close to one another. Boarding centers, for example, are filled with rows of kennels where dogs can easily spread the infection through the air or in shared water bowls or toys. Vets in the Wilmington area urge dog parents to follow social distancing protocols to keep their dogs safe and slow the spread of this new kennel cough strain.

Boarding and Doggie Day Care Services Are Being Suspended

Clinics like the Atlantic Animal Hospital are changing their services in response to the outbreak. For the time being, they are not offering daycare or boarding services. In phrasing that sounds all too familiar in 2020, Atlantic Animal Hospital sent an announcement to clients over the weekend. “In an abundance of caution, along with other area providers, we will be temporarily closing our doggie daycare and day boarding services,” the written announcement said. 

If your dog shows symptoms of kennel cough, see your veterinarian, especially in light of this new strain of contagious respiratory illness.


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