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A Pet Parent's Guide to the Bordetella Vaccine for Dogs

Regularly visiting your veterinarian for preventive care will ensure your dog is keeping up with their vaccine schedule and leads a happy, healthy life. The Bordetella - or Kennel Cough - vaccine is an immunization you don't want to skip.

A Pet Parent's Guide to the Bordetella Vaccine for Dogs

Regularly visiting your veterinarian for preventive care will ensure your dog is keeping up with their vaccine schedule and leads a happy, healthy life. The Bordetella - or Kennel Cough - vaccine is an immunization you don't want to skip.

By: Dr. Juli, DVM

Most canine companions are naturally social and enjoy time with their pet parents and other dog friends. Our dogs are family, and because of our special bond, we pet parents want to bring our pups with us everywhere. However, before you venture out to that yappy hour or training class, ensuring your pup is protected from common infectious diseases is critical.

It can be overwhelming and challenging to remember all the dos, don'ts, and recommendations from your trusted veterinarian. However, regularly visiting your veterinarian for preventive care will ensure your dog is keeping up with their vaccine schedule and leads a happy, healthy life. The Bordetella - or Kennel Cough - vaccine is an immunization you don't want to skip.

Two Schnauzers play on grass

What is Bordetella? 

Bordetella is frequently used interchangeably to describe the canine illness, kennel cough. To make matters more confusing for pet parents, veterinary professionals may also refer to kennel cough as canine infectious tracheobronchitis and canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC). Various bacteria and viruses, sometimes occurring concurrently, can cause kennel cough in dogs; these terms describe the diagnosis of infection in your dog's trachea or bronchial tubes. Dogs with more complicated forms of Bordetella are more likely to have secondary infections from other bacteria or viruses, leading to CIRDC, and this form of kennel cough usually occurs in dogs older than six months of age.

Specifically, Bordetella bronchiseptica is a highly contagious bacteria and the most common infectious agent that causes kennel cough in dogs. Dogs infected with Bordetella shed these infectious bacteria in their respiratory secretions. They can spread it to other dogs through sneezing, contact with other dogs, or contact with an infected object such as a food bowl or toy.  

What are the signs of Bordetella in dogs? 

Dogs infected with Bordetella typically show signs 2 to 14 days after exposure. Ensure to inform your veterinarian if your dog has recently been around other canine friends and if they have received any core or non-core vaccinations.

A goose-like, honking cough is the most common and classic sign of a kennel cough infection. Some dogs will only experience a mild cough and may recover within two weeks without any treatment or further concerns. However, it's critical to bring your dog for a veterinary exam if they suddenly develop a cough because other underlying illnesses, like canine influenza, canine distemper, heart disease, allergies, or tracheal collapse, can cause a sudden onset of coughing in dogs. Dogs with complex cases of kennel cough may experience a more persistent and severe cough and are at risk for developing secondary pneumonia.

Other bordetella signs may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fever
  • Retching or gagging
  • Sneezing
  • Eye discharge
  • Runny nose

A tired, lethargic Golden Retriever rests his head on a pillow while laying on a couch

How do I know if my dog needs a Bordetella vaccine

Any breed, age, or sex is at risk for kennel cough; however, unvaccinated pets, puppies, senior dogs, or pups with an underlying health issue have an increased risk of severe respiratory disease or CIRDC. Dogs in close quarters with other canine companions are at risk for exposure to infectious kennel cough-causing agents.

The Bordetella vaccine is a non-core vaccination administered every 6 to 12 months based on your dog's lifestyle, overall health, and risk factors for exposure. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the best vaccination plan for your pup.

The Bordetella vaccine is recommended for dogs exposed to the following high-risk environments:

  • Dog parks
  • Dog shows
  • Dog groomers
  • Doggy daycare
  • Veterinary hospitals
  • Pet stores
  • Boarding facilities or animal shelters
  • Areas with poor ventilation
  • Obedience classes

Close up of veterinarian's hands injecting a vaccine into a dog's hind leg

How is the Bordetella Vaccine Administered?

Unlike other core dog vaccinations, the Bordetella or Kennel Cough vaccine is unique because it can be administered by various means. Your veterinarian will give the Bordetella vaccine by one of the following methods:

Oral Vaccine

This vaccine only protects against Bordetella bacteria. Oral vaccines may be easier to administer to some dogs (especially when followed by a treat). They may be recommended for dogs with small or narrow nasal passages. 

Intranasal Vaccine

This vaccine protects against Bordetella bacteria; some may include protection against other viral respiratory agents that can cause CIRDC. Some dogs may experience sneezing or nasal discharge for a few days after this vaccine.

Injectable Vaccine

Aggressive dogs or dogs with behavior problems will most likely receive the injectable vaccination, which protects against Bordetella bacteria. 

Bordetella Vaccine Side Effects

Most dogs will experience minimal to no side effects from the Bordetella vaccination. Common and non-life-threatening side effects may include mild drowsiness, sneezing, coughing that subsides after 24 hours, and a small lump at the injection site. Like other dog vaccinations, adverse reactions may occur in rare cases and require immediate treatment.

Bring your dog for emergency veterinary care if they are showing any of the following signs after receiving their Bordetella vaccination:

How to Prevent Bordetella

Regularly vaccinating your dog is the best way to prevent your pup from becoming sick. Also, only expose your dog to pets outside your household after completing their vaccination series. Bordetella is highly contagious; the bacteria can remain in an infected dog's system for up to three months after infection. Other prevention tips include:

  • Ensuring your dog receives required core vaccinations, which include: rabies, canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, infectious canine hepatitis, and canine parainfluenza virus
  • Asking your veterinarian which non-core vaccinations your dog should receive, including canine influenza virus, Lyme, and leptospirosis 
  • Bringing your dog for yearly or more frequent veterinary visits to ensure they are healthy and free of underlying health issues
  • Feeding your dog a high-quality AAFCO-approved diet
  • Support your adult and senior dog's overall health with supplements that fight inflammation, such as Omega Oil.

For more tips on your pet's health, check out the Native Pet blog.

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