It’s very common for kennels to require dogs be vaccinated against "kennel cough" before they are allowed in. There are two main reasons for this:
- Reducing the risk that a dog will bring kennel cough into the facility and spread it to other dogs.
- Reducing the likelihood that a dog will acquire kennel cough if someone else brought it in.
Overall, it’s a sound policy, but it’s far from 100% effective and it needs to be part of an overall kennel infection control program to work. Relying solely on vaccination to prevent kennel cough is a weak approach that can ultimately fail, particularly if other infection control practices are poor or if vaccination protocols are illogical.
Why isn’t it 100% effective?
1) Kennel cough is a syndrome, not a specific disease. It can be caused by many different viruses and bacteria, often in combination. Kennel cough vaccines are typically targeted against Bordetella bronchiseptica +/- canine parainfluenza, two important causes of kennel cough, but not the only causes.
2) No vaccine is 100% effective. Vaccines help reduce the risk of illness, but they don’t completely eliminate it. Some vaccines are better than others, and some animals respond better to vaccines than others.
3) Timing is another issue. One of the weak points of many kennel protocols is the requirement that the dog be vaccinated "before entry," or within a certain number of weeks or months. The problem with this is vaccines are not immediately effective. What often happens is people decide to board their animal at the last minute or realize the night before that they need their dog vaccinated, so the vaccine gets given a day (or less) before kenneling. The intranasal kennel cough vaccine (squirted up the nose) takes a few (3-5) days to be effective, and the injectable vaccine takes even longer (a week or more). Vaccination very soon before boarding, particularly for a dog that has never been vaccinated against kennel cough before, is unlikely to result in protection from infection by the time of boarding.
Requiring vaccination before boarding makes sense, but it’s important to remember that:
- It’s not 100% effective.
- It doesn’t negate the need for a good infection control program.
- It needs to be given at an appropriate time to be effective.