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Dog Owner’s Guide to the Bordetella Vaccination (THE KENNEL COUGH VACCINE)

The Bordetella vaccination is among the most popular of the non-core dog vaccines. Most veterinarians recommend it for all puppies because it protects your dog from contracting infectious tracheobronchitis, otherwise known as the kennel cough. But, does your puppy really need the Bordetella shot?

While it’s true that the Bordetella vaccination protects your dog from the Kennel Cough, the Bordetella bronchiseptica is not the only bacterium responsible for causing this medical condition. In fact, there are several strains of bacteria and viruses that can cause this – including the canine parainfluenza virus, which is covered by the DHLPP vaccination.

This means that getting the Bordetella vaccinations annually does not guarantee your dog won’t contract the kennel cough. However, it does help in limiting the chances of catching the “dog’s bronchitis.”

Does My Dog Need the Bordetella Vaccination?

Now that you know more about the Bordetella vaccination, you may not think that it’s important. But this doesn’t mean that other people share the same views. The problem is that the kennel cough is highly contagious, especially in environments where dogs congregate and play with one another. So if you ever plan on leaving your dog at a facility holding multiple dogs in an enclosed space, then you can bet they’ll check for Bordetella vaccinations.

Facilities that May Check for Bordetella:

  • Grooming facilities
  • Dog day care centers
  • Dog training facilities
  • Kennel hotels
  • Private dog parks

All facilities have their own specific rules about the Bordetella vaccination before the dog is allowed to enter the premises. For example, Top Notch Kennels require your dog to be vaccinated with Bordetella, but they don’t specify frequency. On the other hand, Dogville Daycare strictly enforces that all dogs get their Bordetella vaccination every 6 months before allowed into the center. If you plan to enroll your puppy into such establishments listed above, it’s a good idea to just get the vaccination.

Make note that it takes roughly 10 to 14 days for partial immunity to develop after the vaccine has been administered. Some places will require this period of time to pass before approving your dog.

You may be able to find some places that don’t require this, but a reputable establishment usually does. Always do your research and confirm the Bordetella requirements before scheduling an appointment.

Further reading:

What is Kennel Cough?

Bordetella is also known as the “kennel cough vaccine,” but do you know what the kennel cough actually is? Before deciding on whether your dog needs Bordetella, it’s probably a good idea to fully understand the risks of kennel cough.

In a nutshell, the kennel cough is an upper respiratory infection, most commonly compared to the common cold or mild bronchitis in humans. The infection can spread airborne through coughing and sneezing. It can also spread through contact with contaminated substances and/or objects, such as the nasal discharge of an infected dog.

Though not the only cause of kennel cough, the Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common cause of the canine illness. In southern Germany, the Bordetella bacterium is responsible for nearly 80% of all cases of kennel cough, followed by the canine parainfluenza virus.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough

The average incubation period for kennel cough is roughly 5 to 7 days, but can range anywhere from 3 to 10 days. If your dog starts showing symptoms within two weeks of being in close contact with other dogs, there is a chance of being infected with kennel cough.

Some symptoms include, but is not limited to:

  • Nasal discharge (running nose)
  • Severe cough (unusually harsh coughing, almost choke-like)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in behavior
  • Sneezing
  • Mild fever
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Light vomiting (from exercise or excitement)

If any or multiple of these symptoms persist, it’s a good idea to have your dog checked for kennel cough. Even if dogs are getting regular Bordetella vaccinations, they could still be at risk for the infection.

Kennel Cough Treatment

The good news is that the kennel cough is a relatively mild illness for dogs. It will be a nuisance to both you and your dog, but generally it is not life threatening. The reason why the Bordetella vaccine is categorized as a non-core vaccine (despite its popularity) is because the kennel cough illness doesn’t pose a serious risk to dogs.

Whether your dog gets treatment for kennel cough or not, the illness usually subsides within 3 to 4 weeks. However, some dogs may need a couple more weeks to completely go back to normal. If your dog has a weak immune system, as seen in puppies and senior dogs, it may take up to 6 weeks for recovery.  

In some cases, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection. This may not always be the case, as antibiotics only work on bacteria and not virus infections.

If the cause of kennel cough is from Bordetella (bacteria), then antibiotics will make sense. However, if the cause is by Parainfluenza (virus), antibiotics will be useless. There is no way to tell from a simple physical exam, so a blood test may be necessary.

If kennel cough was contracted by a virus, it’s up to your dog’s immune system to rid the infection. There’s not much to do, except to make sure your dog gets plenty of rest, water and proper nutrition.

Further reading:

Bordetella Vaccine Schedule

The Bordetella vaccine is usually administered in weeks 14 to 16, as recommended by veterinarians. In some cases, a vet may even recommend two sets of Bordetella. This first set is completely optional and many vets agree that it is not required by any means.

This Bordetella shot schedule is courtesy of South Hills Animal Hospital, in California.

After the puppy gets the Bordetella vaccination, they’re usually recommended to come back for booster shots every 6 to 12 months. The frequency of Bordetella boosters in adulthood has been a controversial topic surrounding the vaccine. But most veterinarians agree that annual shots for Bordetella is sufficient.

Bordetella Vaccine Cost

The cost of the vaccination will depend on different factors, but mainly on your location. Generally, it’s slightly more expensive in a large animal hospital than from a smaller private clinic. Don’t be afraid to shop around your local area and adjacent cities for better pricing.

The average cost of Bordetella ranges from $10 to $15 USD per shot.

This means that you’ll only need to pay on average $20 to $30 (per year) depending on the frequency of shots and price.

How to Get the Vaccine for Cheap or FREE

If these prices aren’t something you’re able to afford, that is okay. There are several ways to get the Bordetella shot for a big discount (and sometimes even free). All it takes is a little time and effort on your part.

Animal Shelters – My favorite and probably the most clever strategy is to find animal shelters that provide popular dog vaccinations. This works great because no matter where you live, there will be an animal shelter close by. Because animal shelters hold their dogs in a small enclosed space, you can bet that they get their dogs inoculated with Bordetella. The unfortunate part is that they don’t usually vaccinate their dogs until after they’re set to get adopted. 

Veterinary School – Another great option is to look for a Vet school nearby. If there is one, they usually allow local residents to come in for discounted vet care, including proper dog vaccinations. The students will be administering the shots, but they will usually always be supervised. Not to worry – leave it up to the bright minds of the future of our animal care.

Animal Welfare Organizations – Did you know that there are organizations that actually provide financial aid for pet owners all over the country? If you really can’t afford your dog’s vaccinations, these welfare groups may your best bet in getting free shots! The Humane Society compiled a sizable list, so do your research and choose wisely.

Never let money hinder your dog from getting its shots.

Further reading:

Vaccine Side Effects

Like with all vaccinations, the Bordetella vaccine may lead to temporary risks and side effects that all dog owners should be aware of. The first thing owners usually notice is a low-grade fever shortly after inoculation (after about 24 hours). This is completely normal and considered a common side effect of the vaccination. You may see your dog experience a change in behavior, such as lack of energy and loss of appetite.

This nothing more than a normal response from your dog’s immune system to the vaccine. These side effects tend to last no more than a couple days. If side effects persist past a few days, contact your vet for consultation.

Allergic Reaction of Bordetella Vaccine

In some cases, your dog may experience an allergic reaction to the vaccine. The allergic reaction can take several minutes to hours after the vaccination depending on severity of the allergy.

You will know if your dog is experience an allergic reaction as you can expect vomiting, diarrhea and even fainting. Your dog will not want to move and may even hide around the house. Hives and moderate swelling may occur around your dog’s face and/or body.

If this happens, contact your vet immediately and to get these symptoms treated. It’s always important to closely monitor your dog right after vaccinations in case of an allergic reaction.

Allergic reactions can happen in the initial set of puppy shots or in the follow up boosters. It is unpredictable.

Further reading:

Intranasal vs. Injection

For dogs, there are two options to deliver the Bordetella vaccine: the injection under the skin (using needle) and through nose drops (intranasal). Puppies can receive Bordetella through intranasal at the age of 3 weeks, but is not common or necessary. Obviously both methods of delivery have their pros and cons. Let’s dive in.

The Advantages of Intranasal Vaccine

The main advantage of the intranasal vaccine, as you may have guessed, is that it is far less intrusive than with using a needle. This option is perfect for small dogs or dogs that are extremely sensitive to pain.

Administering bordetella using a needle may take up to two weeks for immunity to develop. However, studies have shown that the nasal method could result in a much quicker timeline for developing immunity.

Since kennel cough infects the respiratory system, the intranasal vaccine is a good option as it protects the dog at the source of the infection. Because of this, some veterinarians have made the argument that intranasal method is more effective.

The Cons of Intranasal for Bordetella

Studies have shown that the nasal vaccination is far more effective in puppies that:

  1. Have never contracted the kennel cough
  2. Have never been administered the vaccination through injection.

If your dog has experienced at least one of the two, then the intranasal vaccination for Bordetella may not be a great option. It may still be effective, but researchers in these studies have questioned how effective it is. You should still consult with your vet.

Nasal is a solid option, but not every dog can get used to injecting liquid up their nose. Most dogs that are aggressive by nature will not be able to have their Bordetella vaccines delivered this way.

Like with the injection method, the nasal vaccine can also cause temporary side effects such as mild fever. In some cases, the nasal vaccine can cause a longer period of side effects – lasting nearly 3 to 4 days.

Bordetella by Injection

The injection method for Bordetella is the far more popular method for a reason. Even if your dog starts off with intranasal for Bordetella, it is still recommended that they go with injections for the annual boosters. In this case, it may be better to get your dog used to the vaccine injection by needle.

Not all veterinarians and animal hospitals may provide the intranasal option, but they will all be able to inject the vaccine with the traditional needle method. Always consult with your vet about the different options, as each dog will vary case by case. It may not be appropriate for your dog to receive the Bordetella vaccine via intranasal.

Further reading:

Roxie Wilkins

Sunday 2nd of February 2020

I'm so glad to have read this! I'm sorry your dogs are suffering due to the kennel cough vaccine. I have a pomeranian that was recently groomed. She said my dog would need that vaccine before coming back, company policy. She said I could get an exemption form from my vet if I didn't want my dog to have the vaccine. My pom has a collapsed trachea, causing him to cough and gag. I don't want anything that could give him upper respiratory problems. I asked the vet if he would get any symptoms of the kennel cough from the vaccine, she said,they couldn't guarantee that he wouldn't . No way will I allow him this vaccine, especially seeing what you're is going through!

Edna Hill

Wednesday 25th of September 2019

I went to a shelter to get help with shots.Without permission they gave both my girls the kennel cough shot.

They both almost stop breathing gaging and coughing crying for days now still coughing 2 months later.

My pit has a painful itch huge bumped rash from head to toe.I called them they said it goes away in a week.

Well again 2 months later my girls are still suffering and losing their hair and coughing sneezing .

I would never recommend this shot to any one.I have a limited income.And we have now been out about 100$ on special itch shampoos sprays and meds.Not including all the time laundry bathes and vacuuming.

Do you have any home remedi s to help.

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