SchnauzerYou’re heading out for vacation, and it’s time to find someone to take care of your dogs.

Do you choose a kennel? A pet sitter to visit twice daily to feed and walk your guys? An overnight house sitter/pet sitter?

I did some of the latter for a little extra change when I was in vet school. Really not there during the day, but the animals saw me every night when I stayed from dinner time till classes the next morning. I fed them, petted them, let them out, and made sure all were okay. Seemed like a win-win situation, but you may not want to go as far as having someone sleeping over while you’re away.

A budding kennel owner prompts this post when he recently wrote in the comments:

“I have a question about kennel cough. I’m starting up a business in kenneling and grooming animals, and I’ve heard about kennel cough, and how it can get passed on through out the animals in the kennels, if one dog was to have it. My question is what about vaccinations…?”

Ah, he must be talking about bordello. Er, bordetello. No, bartinello? Wait, what’s the other name for kennel cough?


Yes, lots of funny interpretations of this bacteria’s name. But it’s not the only bug involved in kennel cough. A mixed bag, kennel cough often involves a virus as well, parainfluenza, and probably several other culprits, like mycoplasma.

As usual, only those susceptible individuals get it. Vital animals just respond appropriately, like healthy people who don’t pick up the cold going around, because their immune systems fight off the cold virus.

If your dog is fed appropriately, and you avoid repeated vaccinations like the plague, stay away from toxic things like flea control spot ons and heartworm monthly pills, odds are he’ll never get this canine “cold” known as kennel cough.

Even if he spends time in a kennel.

Just a Cold?

Yes, kennel cough is the dog version of a human cold. No one dies of it. It’s a harsh cough that can last as long as three weeks, but the way to avoid it is largely by raising a vital animal.

Lots of kennel owners and even groomers will expect you to get your dog vaccinated for kennel cough before accepting them into their kennel. Some shows and agility trials have similar notions. Let’s look at this, so that you are well informed and can offer a reasonable response when someone recommends this vaccination.

Why All The Fuss? CYA.

Why are kennel owners and often groomers so worked up about demanding vaccinations for a common cold? We have to look largely at self interest for the answer.

Kennel cough is contagious, and often occurs when groups of animals are housed closely together, though again, only the susceptible will get it. The kennel owners don’t want to be blamed if your dog comes home from kenneling with a 2-3 week honking cough. It’s a liability thing. So, the vaccines are part of C.Y.A. (aka “cover your backside,” as the Brits like to say).

Here’s a logical way to placate their fear without the risk of further vaccination: sign a waiver. “I, __________, will not hold you ______ or your kennel responsible if my dog gets kennel cough while under your care. I assume full responsibility.”

Bold, right? Most kennel owners would be happy to have something like this on file, and it serves their need for CYA. And, if you happen to get a case of kennel cough, it can be curtailed rather quickly by a visit to your homeopathic veterinarian.

Vaccination for Kennel Cough: Not!

For a vaccination to make sense to use, it’d have to pass the usual gold standards of inquiry:

Does it work?
Is it safe?

The kennel cough vaccine can’t answer either question with a resounding yes. It’s really pretty much a weakling in the vaccine world.

Efficacy is another way to ask, how well does this work? Turns out it’s a lousy immunizing combo, with at best a very short lived protection against only some of the bugs known to cause this canine cold.

The efficacy of preventing kennel cough in your dog by giving a vaccination is so lacking that noted immunologist Ronald Schultz, PhD says,

“Kennel cough is not a vaccinatable disease.”

That’s not to say its not preventable, but this is a top vaccination authority’s judgement about the value of using the vaccine to prevent this cold in dogs.

Safety is the other concern. As with other vaccines, illness can come from the very act of vaccinating. The risk of vaccinosis is real, especially when a vaccination is repeated multiple times throughout your animals life. It’s very common to hear recommendations that kennel cough vaccine be given twice a year.

Furthermore, some vaccines make the recipient more likely to get the illness, the exact opposite effect hoped for. Kennel cough vaccine was found to do just that in the study listed below.

Protection Without Risk

Chris Day, MRCVS has a published study 1 done on a kennel that was battling kennel cough for years without success. As a veterinary homeopath, he brought kennel cough nosodes in, gave them to all the incoming dogs in the kennel, and watched the disease incidence plummet.

Nosodes are homeopathically prepared medicines made from the actual disease discharge, but diluted and prepared in such a way that they carry no risk of infection. They are given orally to trigger the animal’s immune system to respond to only that particular illness trying to gain a foothold in the animal.

Kennel owners can use nosodes effectively to prevent the common scourges of kennel life, most notably parvo and distemper and kennel cough. I was just conversing by email with my friend and colleague Don Hamilton DVM, who used nosodes in a kennel and saw a dramatic drop in their parvo and kennel cough cases when they added it to the drinking water.

Kennel Owners Note: Cheap, Easy Protection

I’d hope you’ll stop asking your clients to repeatedly vaccinate their animals for kennel cough, or anything else, for that matter. If they were vaccinated early in life, which most were, they are done. Immunity lasts a lifetime, in most cases. So say the experts who’ve been too long ignored by Dr. WhiteCoat.