Whether your dog needs a bordetella vaccination depends on several factors. Ask your vet about giving your dog this shot, commonly called the kennel cough vaccine, if he spends a lot of time in boarding kennels, doggie day care or other areas with strange dogs.
Although known as kennel cough, the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica also affects cats, rabbits and even people. The bad news is that it's highly contagious. The good news is that most dogs contracting the upper respiratory illness recover within a week to 10 days after exhibiting the choking cough that gives the disease its name. However, if your dog is old or has an underlying disease or a compromised immune system, the effects of kennel cough can be far more serious and even deadly.
The bordetella vaccine is not one of the canine "core" immunizations, according to the University of California at Davis Veterinary School. It states that the intranasal vaccination with live avirulent bacteria is recommended for dogs expected to enter a kennel or participate in a dog show within six months of the vaccination date. For puppies and dogs receiving an initial intranasal vaccination, one dose of the live vaccine is required. If the subcutaneous injection form of the vaccine is used, a booster shot a few weeks after the first vaccination may be necessary. The vaccine should be given at least a week before the scheduled boarding or show date.
In many circumstances, you may have no choice about having your dog vaccinated against bordetella. No vaccination means no dog show, day care, dog park admittance and so forth. It's also not the most effective vaccine—though it's less likely, your vaccinated dog may still come down with kennel cough, albeit a milder form, if exposed. Can the side effects of the vaccination be worse than the disease? Possibly. Your dog may exhibit mild upper respiratory symptoms after the vaccination, a sort of mini kennel cough. There are also the reactions the dog may have to any shot, if that's the form of vaccination used. This includes soreness or abscess at the injection site or a short period of depression and lethargy immediately following the immunization.
In 2012, the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an oral bordetella vaccine. Marketed under the name Bronchi-Shield Oral, this live, avirulent Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccine is available only for use in dogs. Canines aged 8 weeks and older may receive the oral vaccine, which should be re-administered each year.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- University of California–Davis School of Veterinary Medicine: Canine and Feline Vaccination Guidelines
- Vetinfo: Dog Vaccines and Vaccinations
- Vet Street: Bordetella Vaccine for Dogs and Cats
- Veterinary Practice News: BIVI to Launch Oral Bordetella Vaccine
- Petfinder: Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.