Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria are frequently found in dogs with the kennel cough complex and other respiratory diseases. Signs of upper respiratory illness caused by bordetella include a dry, hacking cough accompanied by a clear nasal or eye discharge. In puppies and immune-compromised adult animals, secondary bacterial invasion of the lower respiratory tract following viral illness may cause life-threatening pneumonia. Dogs who are carrying the organism and may not even be ill themselves, may still cough or exhale the organism into the air. Healthy dogs can then be infected by breathing in that contaminated air.
The bacteria can be cultured from nasal swabs or transtracheal washings.
Treatment: Treat all upper respiratory infections by placing the animal in a warm, draft-free environment, humidifying the atmosphere, and avoiding stressful activities that can interfere with a smooth recovery. Antibiotics are indicated if the dog develops fever and a mucopurulent nasal discharge. Antibiotics are also indicated for all cases of upper respiratory infection in which bordetella is isolated. Antibiotics given by nebulizer may be more effective than those given orally or by injection. This is because the bacteria attach to the mucosal surface of the respiratory tract and are difficult to reach with systemic antibiotics.
Prevention: Bordetella vaccinations are not routine, but may be advisable for show dogs, boarded dogs, dogs who go to grooming salons or obedience classes, and dogs who live in kennels.