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Care Guide

About Care Guides[x] These care guides are written to help your clients understand common conditions, tests, and procedures, as well as to provide basic information about pet care. They are based on the most up-to-date, documented information, recommendations, and guidelines available in the United States at the time of writing. Pharmaceutical product licensing, availability, and usage recommendations are based on US product information. Use the Download Handout button to generate a PDF for printing or e-mailing to your clients.

Annual Examination and Canine Bordetella Recommendations

    • Regular examinations are essential to maintaining canine health.
    • A thorough physical examination checks every major body system.
    • Age-appropriate screening tests can detect disease early.
    • Annual vaccine risk assessments ensure that your pet is properly immunized against infectious diseases
    • A vaccine against Bordetella (kennel cough) is recommended for at-risk pets.

    Why Are Annual Examinations Important?

    Regular physical examinations are essential to maintaining the health of your dog. A thorough examination checks every major body organ and system:

    • Eyes – Your dog’s eyes will be checked for cloudiness or discharge, which could indicate a problem.
    • Ears – Many pets get ear infections. Your veterinarian will examine the ear canal for growths, debris, waxy buildup, or trauma caused by scratching, which could signal the presence of an ear problem.
    • Oral cavity – Your veterinarian will visually examine your pet’s mouth for signs of dental disease and for broken or missing teeth. If problems are detected, your veterinarian may recommend a thorough dental examination and cleaning for your pet.
    • Cardiovascular/respiratory system – Your veterinarian will listen to your pet’s lungs and heart.
    • Digestive system – Your veterinarian will palpate (feel) your pet’s abdomen for signs of discomfort and to check that the major organs are the right size and shape.
    • Musculoskeletal system – Your veterinarian will palpate your pet’s major muscles and bones to check for signs of weakness or pain.
    • Skin and haircoat – Your veterinarian will check all your pet’s “lumps and bumps.” If anything suspicious is found, a biopsy or lump removal may be recommended.
    • Laboratory tests – During a routine examination, your veterinarian may also want to check your pet’s blood, urine, feces, or haircoat to obtain additional information about your pet’s health or to ensure that specific body systems are functioning properly.

    During your pet’s examination, your veterinarian will ask you many questions about your pet’s behavior, lifestyle, and health history since your last visit. The answers to these questions will help your veterinarian develop preventive care recommendations to help keep your pet healthy. Based on your pet’s age, lifestyle, and disease risk, your veterinarian will recommend vaccinations for your pet. In certain cases, a vaccine for canine Bordetella (kennel cough) will be recommended.

    What Is Bordetella bronchiseptica?

    Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium that is commonly associated with respiratory disease in dogs. It can also infect cats, rabbits, and, in rare cases, humans. It is one of the most common bacterial causes of canine infectious tracheobronchitis, which is also sometimes called kennel cough. Bordetella bronchiseptica is one of several viral and bacterial agents that are responsible for kennel cough syndrome. Bordetella is highly contagious, easily transmitted through the air or direct contact, and resistant to destruction in the environment.

    In healthy adult dogs, Bordetella typically causes no more than a mild illness. In puppies or in dogs with other underlying health issues, however, it can cause severe illness or even death in rare cases. In mild infections, treatment is generally supportive because the disease can resolve on its own unless a secondary (subsequent) infection occurs. Precautionary antibiotics to prevent secondary infection may be prescribed. In severe cases, treatment may consist of administration of antibiotics and medications to help your pet breathe more easily. Cough medication may also be prescribed.


    Kennel cough is misnamed because dogs don’t necessarily contract the disease from being kenneled. Rather, they become ill because kennels can be stressful environments for some dogs, and stress can suppress the immune system, increasing susceptibility to disease. Typical kennel conditions (such as group housing) can make it easier to spread infectious organisms, such as Bordetella bronchiseptica. Any place where large numbers of dogs are gathered increases the risk of disease transmission.

    Vaccination is the best way to protect your dog from illness associated with canine infectious tracheobronchitis, particularly if your dog frequents kennels, groomers, dog shows, or dog sporting events. Although vaccination against Bordetella is not mandatory for every dog, the vaccine may be recommended in dogs whose lifestyle increases their risk of exposure to this organism. An intranasal Bordetella vaccine is available in addition to the traditional injectable vaccine. Ask your veterinarian whether vaccination is recommended for your pet and, if so, which type is best for your pet. Vaccination against Bordetella is recommended at least annually for at-risk dogs, and some boarding facilities may require proof of vaccination within 6 months.

    Many boarding facilities require dogs to be vaccinated against kennel cough before admission to reduce the risk of disease transmission.