Dog getting a vaccine

Key takeaway

The Bordetella vaccine can prevent kennel cough, a respiratory illness that causes coughing and severe discomfort. While kennel cough is non-life-threatening, it can make your dog feel ill and uncomfortable. Luckily, the Bordetella vaccine makes kennel cough preventable.

Like humans, dogs need vaccines to protect them from various illnesses. There are even pet vaccines that are required by law. Your vet may also suggest a variety of optional vaccines to maintain your dog's overall health and wellness. One vaccine your vet may recommend is the Bordetella vaccine. Many vets recommend the Bordetella vaccine if dogs will be boarded at a vet or doggy daycare or frequent the dog park.

If you’re considering vaccinating your dog against Bordetella, there are a few things you should know. This article will teach you everything about the Bordetella vaccine for dogs, including what it is, what types of dogs should get it, and the risks associated with the vaccine.

What Is Bordetella?

Bordetella is a bacteria that causes inflammation in a dog's upper respiratory system.1 Bordetella can lead to coughing and inflammation while impacting your dog's immune system and leading to secondary infections.1 Bordetella is ultimately the bacterium that causes kennel cough in dogs. Many vets refer to Bordetella infections as kennel cough to not confuse pet parents.

What Is Kennel Cough and How Is it Spread?

Kennel cough is used to describe a respiratory illness in dogs. It is typically spread through dog-to-dog contact in areas where dogs are confined, such as kennels.1 While kennel cough isn't life-threatening, it can lead to other illnesses that are fatal, such as bronchopneumonia and chronic bronchitis.1

Kennel cough is spread through aerosol droplets, direct contact between dogs, or contact with contaminated items, including food bowls and crates.1 Dogs are most likely to get infected with kennel cough in areas where many dogs are kept, such as dog hotels, kennels, vet offices, and even dog parks. However, dogs can also get kennel cough from anything that a contagious dog has touched. Humans can also bring kennel cough home with them if they work in vet offices or shelters where there are infected dogs.1

Symptoms of kennel cough in dogs include:

  • Coughing: If your dog is coughing and wheezing, and their cough sounds more like honking, it can indicate kennel cough. Honking coughs are the most common symptom of kennel cough in dogs.
  • Runny Nose: Your dog could have a runny nose for several reasons, including allergies or another illness. While dogs' noses are naturally wet, they should never be runny. If your dog has a runny nose for more than a few days, schedule an appointment with your vet.
  • Sneezing: Dogs typically sneeze due to allergies or foreign objects, such as a blade of grass getting stuck in their noses. However, kennel cough is very similar to the common cold in humans and can result in sneezing because it's an upper respiratory infection.
  • Lack of appetite: If your puppy isn't eating, they may not be feeling well. Many dogs prefer to nap instead of eating when they’re feeling sick.
  • Lethargy: Being sick makes dogs feel tired, just like humans. Your dog needs rest for their body to heal, so if you notice your dog is lethargic, it can indicate an illness such as kennel cough.
  • Fever: Fevers are your dog's natural way to eliminate bacteria and toxins in their body. Healthy dogs don't have fevers, so consider visiting the vet as soon as possible if your dog has a high fever.

Symptoms of kennel cough resemble those of distemper and influenza virus, which are more serious illnesses. So, it's essential to take your dog to the vet if they display symptoms of kennel cough.1 Some dogs may only have one or two signs of kennel cough, while others will have all of the symptoms. For example, a dog may have a dry cough but not a fever.

Kennel cough is treatable in dogs, and most dogs recover within a few days to a few weeks, especially if your dog hasn't gotten any secondary infections or illnesses. Vets typically recommend allowing the dog to rest while providing them with cough medicine and antibiotics to prevent secondary infections.2

If you have other dogs in the household, you should talk to your vet about preventing the spread of infection to other dogs, which may include keeping your infected dog separated until they've finished treatment.

Is the Bordetella vaccine necessary?

Should My Dog Get the Bordetella Vaccine?

The Bordetella vaccine (also known as the kennel cough vaccine) is a non-core vaccine recommended for puppies and adult dogs to help prevent kennel cough. However, many dogs don't need the Bordetella vaccine, especially if they spend most of their time indoors and do not socialize with other dogs.

While it's always best to play it safe and vaccinate your dog, the dogs who need the Bordetella vaccine the most include those that are more social and spend their time with other dogs, such as in dog parks, daycare, grooming facilities, training classes, and other pet events.

Many facilities that see many dogs throughout the day require Bordetella vaccinations to ensure the safety of other pets. Because some dogs can get secondary fatal infections, it's always best to vaccinate your dog.

However, some dogs should not get the Bordetella vaccine. Your vet may advise against the kennel cough vaccine if your dog is sick, pregnant, or immunocompromised.1 As always, it's best to consult your vet to determine if the Bordetella vaccine is right for your dog.

Bordetella Vaccine Schedule

Unlike other vaccinations, such as the rabies vaccine, the Bordetella vaccine is not required by law. However, it is still one of the most common vaccines. Some dogs may not be eligible for the vaccine, but others should get vaccinated before being boarded or spending time among other dogs. Depending on the vaccine route of administration, puppies can receive their first vaccination between six and eight weeks old.1 Dogs should receive a second booster four weeks later. After the age of sixteen weeks, dogs only need one vaccination if they have not received any initial doses.

Bordetella vaccine schedule

Adult dogs should get a Bordetella vaccine yearly, depending on their needs. If you plan to board your dog or enroll them in classes, you may be required to obtain a booster every six months.

If your dog's risk of infection is low, meaning they don't socialize with other dogs, they may only need the booster every year. Because kennel cough is highly contagious, your dog can catch it just about anywhere an infected dog has been, including on a walk around the neighborhood.

Types of Bordetella Vaccines

There are three main types of dog Bordetella vaccines, including:

  • Oral: The oral Bordetella vaccine is one of the easiest ways to protect dogs against Bordetella. However, it is not as effective as other types of vaccinations. It's still a good option for dogs who have anxiety during vet visits and can't tolerate other forms of vaccinations.
  • Nose spray: The intranasal Bordetella vaccine is commonly used in vets' offices. It offers fast onset, which can be beneficial for dogs that will be boarded soon after vaccination.
  • Injection: The injectable Bordetella vaccination is also common and is typically recommended for dogs that get nervous and don't tolerate nose spray.

Mild side effects of the Bordetella vaccine for dogs

Risks and Side Effects of the Bordetella Vaccine

All vaccinations come with their share of risks. The Bordetella vaccine, in particular, has mild symptoms, such as:

  • Discomfort
  • Swelling
  • Low fever
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing2

Most symptoms go away within a few days after vaccination. However, if your dog's symptoms don't go away, call a vet to discuss whether the side effects are normal or if they should come back to the vet for examination.

More serious symptoms of the Bordetella vaccine include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives and itchy skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Collapsing2

Mild side effects are common, but they should not last for more than a day or two. If your dog has significant swelling, fever, decreased appetite, or signs of a respiratory infection, contact your vet immediately.2

Of course, your vet should have access to your pet's medical records. However, it's important to let your vet know if your dog has had reactions to any vaccines in the past. If you're unsure whether your pet will have an adverse reaction, you can stay at the vet's office for an hour after vaccination to ensure they won't have a severe reaction.

Vet preparing dog for their vaccine

How to Prepare Your Dog for Their Vaccine Appointment

No dog enjoys getting their vaccines, but they're necessary in many cases to support their overall health and wellness. To prepare your dog for their vaccine appointment, talk to your vet about what you should bring with you. If you're having your dog vaccinated at a new vet, it's important to bring their medical documents to inform your doctor of any past reactions your dog has had to vaccines.

Remember, many dogs are anxious at the vet, so it's important to find ways to calm them down. In many cases, your dog will need you to hold them gently while the vet administers the vaccine. After the appointment is over, give your pet tons of treats and praise.

Over the next few days, look for sudden changes in their health. While you can expect some mild symptoms, they should not last more than two days. If your pet has a negative reaction to the Bordetella vaccine, take them to an emergency vet for treatment.

Final Notes

Even though the bordetella vaccine is not required by law, it will likely be necessary for any facilities that take care of dogs, such as daycares, groomers, and boarding facilities. While some dogs should not get the vaccine, others should get it to prevent them from contracting kennel cough or serious secondary illnesses. Even if your pet doesn't come into contact or socialize with other dogs, your vet may recommend the Bordetella vaccine to prevent infection.

Unfortunately, many dogs can get anxious at the vet, especially when getting vaccinations. You can help calm anxious pets by giving them anxiety meds to keep them calm. If you're not sure how to manage your pet's anxiety at home, consult a Dutch-affiliated veterinarian who can develop an appropriate treatment plan for your dog's needs.

References

  1. Burke, Anna. “5 Facts about the Bordetella Vaccine for Dogs.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 26 May 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/facts-Bordetella-vaccine-dogs/.

  2. “What to Expect after Your Pet's Vaccination.” American Veterinary Medical Association, https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/what-expect-after-your-pets-vaccination.