Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Don't Forget Bordetella Before Boarding


Pet Column for the week of December 8, 2008


Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Ashley Mitek
Information Specialist

While we all wish Fido and Fluffy could travel with us wherever we may go, sometimes the best option is for them to stay at a kennel. But before you drop your furry family member off at the pet motel, there are a few things you can do to make sure your pet's stay is five-star, or, at the least, safe and enjoyable.

Dr. Lori Cesario is a small animal intern at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana. "Vaccination status is really important in these situations," she says, "you can't just go to your vet the day before you leave and expect your pet will be fully protected."

One of the crucial vaccines to have before dropping your pooch off at the boarder's is bordetella. This vaccine protects against kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis, which can be caused by several different viral and bacterial pathogens. Dr. Cesario mentions that if a dog has kennel cough, "owners could expect to see episodes of intense coughing, often in an otherwise healthy animal." Once the animal has been exposed, it usually takes 3-10 days for symptoms to manifest.

The bordetella vaccine, named because the most common bacteria causing the disease is bordetella bronchiseptica, can be given in a liquid form through the nose, or with an injection just below the skin.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association's vaccine guidelines, the bordetella vaccine should be given annually to dogs over one year of age. It is also recommended that you allow at least one week, if not longer, between the time your dog gets vaccinated and their arrival at the boarder.

Interestingly, the Illinois Department of Agriculture licenses all boarding facilities in the state and according to the Animal Welfare Act, boarding facilities do not have to require that pets be vaccinated for kennel cough. State law does require animals be vaccinated for rabies and distemper though.

While rabies and distemper vaccines are among the "core" vaccines that veterinarians almost always give to dogs and cats, bordetella is not. It is only needed if dogs will be in close contact with other dogs. Thus, be sure to mention to your veterinarian that your dog will be boarded.

Although a shot in the derriļæ½re may not be your Bichon Frise's cup of tea, the thought of high-end cuisine served at a pet hotel just might be. However, "An abrupt change in diet could cause diarrhea and other GI upset," says Dr. Cesario, so plan on bringing your own bag of kibble.

If your pet is taking any pills, such as insulin or heart medication, do not forget to bring them to the boarder as well. "Some owners may think it is okay to skip a day or two of medication, but it's not," notes Dr. Cesario.

Check with your veterinarian beforehand to see if your pet can go without medication for short period of time. Whether or not your dog or cat takes pills, it is a good idea to leave your veterinarian's name and number with the boarder in case of an emergency in addition to your own.

If you would like more information on boarding your pet or the vaccinations needed in your state, contact your local veterinarian.