Bordetella Vaccine for Dogs: A Guide

6 min read
6 min read

Updated - Jul 21st, 2023

Sticking to a puppy vaccine schedule is an essential part of setting your dog up for a happy, healthy life. Not only do vaccinations reduce the likelihood that your dog will get sick and require costly treatment — they also prevent illness from spreading amongst other dogs and humans. 

While some vaccinations are considered essential, others – like the Bordetella vaccine for dogs – are considered lifestyle-dependent. This leads some pet parents to question whether or not their dog needs the Bordetella vaccine. While we’re here to give you all the facts, we always recommend you follow your vet’s lead – they know your pup best!

What is the Bordetella vaccine for dogs?

The Bordetella vaccine protects against Bordetella bronchiseptica, a bacteria that causes inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. This bacteria is often the culprit behind the respiratory illness canine infectious tracheobronchitis, commonly known as kennel cough

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is a contagious, cold-like illness that dogs may catch through contact with Bordetella bacteria from an infected dog.

Dogs with kennel cough develop a dry, hacking cough – often with a distinctive honking sound – that can persist for several weeks, as well as other symptoms including panting and sneezing.

While the illness is rarely life-threatening, contracting kennel cough occasionally leads to complications including bronchopneumonia, which requires more intensive treatment. In severe cases, it can require hospitalization. 

According to Richard P. Riney of the Weill Cornell Canine Health Center, vaccinating your dog against kennel cough can both lessen symptoms should your dog still contract the illness and reduce the likelihood of complications like bronchopneumonia.

Note: While Bordetella bronchiseptica is a common culprit when it comes to kennel cough, your pup’s cold-like symptoms could be caused by a number of other types of bacteria or viruses.

How does kennel cough spread?

Think about the last time you got the common cold. It’s so contagious it can be hard to pinpoint exactly where you came into contact with contaminants. Was it from sitting across from a sick coworker at the office? From drinking out of a shared glass?

Kennel cough spreads in a similar fashion and is highly contagious. Dogs can become infected by inhaling sneeze or cough droplets from infected dogs. It can also live on objects such as toys or water bowls for short periods of time.

Does my dog need the Bordetella vaccine?

The Bordetella vaccine is considered a non-core vaccine, which means it is not recommended for all pets. Instead, your vet will recommend it based on your dog’s lifestyle. So, if your dog socializes with other dogs frequently, your vet will likely recommend the Bordetella vaccine. Some doggy daycares or kennels even require the vaccine to help prevent spread of kennel cough. 

Dogs who frequently come into contact with other dogs are at risk of contracting the illness. Although the illness gets its nickname from its prevalence in boarding facilities, dogs can contract the illness in other social environments like dog parks or the groomer’s as well.

Note: While there may be different species of Bordetella that can infect your dog and that there isn’t a vaccine for, the bronchiseptica species is the most prevalent. Therefore, like any treatment, Bordetella vaccination is highly efficacious but may not be 100% effective against all less virulent strains of Bordetella. 

How is the Bordetella vaccine administered?

The most common Bordetella vaccine is an intranasal vaccine (administered through the nose). The intranasal vaccine is often a combination vaccine that also prevents canine parainfluenza.

At your appointment, your vet will drip or squirt droplets directly into your dog’s nose. These droplets contain a small dose of live, avirulent bacterial extracts.

Another form of the Bordetella vaccine can be given via a series of two injections, administered 2-4 weeks apart. The injectable vaccine tends to be less favored by vets, but may be recommended in certain circumstances.

When should my dog get the Bordetella vaccine?

According to the Merck Manual, a dose of the Bordetella intranasal vaccine may be administered to puppies at least three weeks of age. However, your vet will help you determine the right age to vaccinate your dog, depending on their individual health conditions and their social life. 

After your dog’s initial dose, your vet will likely recommend that your dog receives a booster every 6-12 months, depending on their lifestyle. Some doggy daycares or boarding facilities may require a booster every six months, while dogs that spend more time on their own may be able to wait longer between boosters.

Bordetella vaccine side effects 

As is the case with any vaccine, it’s possible for a dog to develop mild side effects. Some dogs may experience lethargy or develop a low-grade fever following vaccination.

For dogs that receive the intranasal vaccine, you may notice: 

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal discharge

If your dog receives the Bordetella shot, they may experience slight pain or raised bumps at the injection site.

These side effects should be mild and will typically resolve within a few hours to a couple of days. It’s also possible your dog will not experience any side effects at all. If you notice more severe reactions, or side effects persist beyond a few days, contact your vet.

Bordetella vaccine FAQs 

What is the Bordetella vaccine?

The Bordetella vaccine is a non-core vaccine recommended for dogs who lead a social lifestyle. It protects pups against Bordetella bronchiseptica, a bacteria known to cause kennel cough. Other, less concerning species of Bordetella may not be prevented by the vaccine, but spread and clinical signs of infection are typically mitigated with these lesser virulent strains of Bordetella.

Is the Bordetella vaccine safe for my dog?

Yes, the Bordetella vaccine is safe for most puppies over three weeks old. Contact your vet to discuss your dog’s unique health history, and to determine whether or not the Bordetella vaccine is right for them.

What are the side effects of the Bordetella vaccine in dogs?

Your dog may experience mild side effects like lethargy, sneezing, nasal discharge, or a runny nose following the intravenous vaccination. As with any vaccine, an allergic reaction is possible. Most allergic reactions are mild and easily treated by your veterinarian, should they occur.

Does the Bordetella vaccine expire?

After initial vaccination, your vet will likely recommend that your dog get a booster every 6-12 months, depending on their social habits.

Does pet insurance cover the Bordetella vaccine?

Some pet insurance plans do not cover vaccines, as vaccines tend to fall under the umbrella of “preventative care.” Pet insurance is meant to cover costs that occur from unexpected accidents or illnesses. Some providers – like Pumpkin – offer an optional preventative care package, which can help dog owners pay for routine care such as annual visits, parasite screenings, and vaccinations.

Caitlin McQuade

Caitlin is a writer and the proud roommate of an adorable and elusive cat named Olive.
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