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Everything You Should Know about Bordetella Vaccinations and Your Dog's Health


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Everyone knows that vaccinations are an essential part of a healthy childhood. The same goes for the health and wellbeing of your family dog. Early on Fido will need regular vet care and a variety of routine vaccinations to help keep him or her protected from common and dangerous viruses and diseases. While many of us are familiar with the “core” vaccines such as rabies, parvo and distemper, few pet owners know just what to make of shots that fall into the “recommended” or “non-core” categories. One of these medications, the Bordetella vaccine, may not even be familiar by its scientific name to most pet owners. If you want to know whether your pooch should line up for their annual Bordetella booster, read on!

Bordetella by Any Other Name

When your vet asks whether you’d like your pooch to receive a vaccination for Bordetella, the layman’s version is whether your dog should be inoculated against kennel cough. Kennel cough is the common phrase for an infection caused by the Bordetella virus. Kennel cough is highly contagious and can spread rapidly in settings frequented by multiple dogs such as dog parks, shows, kennels, boarding facilities and more.

In healthy dogs, kennel cough causes cold-like symptoms. Your dog may hack, cough and wheeze for a few days and may also experience congestion or a runny nose. With a little bit of medical support from your veterinarian and plenty of TLC, your pup should be back, up and running in no time.

Bordetella is more concerning for very young, senior or otherwise immunocompromised pets. Young puppies haven’t yet had the chance to build their immune systems and these same systems will weaken as dogs near the end of their lifespan. For these pets, kennel cough can quickly cause difficulties breathing, large amounts of congestion or even pneumonia. Your vet will be in the best position to make an expert assessment on the level of care and medical treatment your particular pet needs in order to treat their case of kennel cough.

Plusses and Minuses

While the seriousness of a Bordetella infection will vary based on your dog’s individual immune system, the good news is that a vaccination is widely available to help prevent your dog from contracting the condition in the first place. Bordetella vaccines can safely be administered in your vet’s office and is generally no more painful than a quick pinch. Once your dog has had the vaccination, their body’s immune system will start building up resistance and will no longer be able to contract that particular strain of the disease.

While this may seem like a no-brainer, there are a few drawbacks to consider before giving the okay for that next booster. Kennel cough is one of the most common canine ailments and there are hundreds of different strains, all with slightly different molecular and biological makeups. The Bordetella vaccine can vaccinate against a number of the most common strains, but can’t completely prevent your dog from coming down with all forms of the disease.

As with any medication, there is a small risk of side effects from the Bordetella vaccination. Some dogs administered the nasal version have suffered from collapsed trachea, irritation and pneumonia. Some in the doggy medical community also believe that over vaccination can cause a variety of secondary conditions and may elevate histamine which is known to promote cancer and inflammation. The Bordetella vaccination often causes a mild version of kennel cough as an immune response and it may take some time for full immunity to develop meaning that giving the shot immediately before boarding won’t prevent your pup from contracting kennel cough if they are exposed.

You should speak to your veterinarian who will help weigh the pros and cons of vaccinating your dog against kennel cough. Your vet will analyze your individual pooch’s risk factor for the disease as well as carefully review all potential risks to help you make an educated decision prior to vaccination.

Bordetella Low Down


While the Bordetella vaccination is considered non-essential in the recommended course of inoculations, there are certain dogs that may be at a higher risk of contracting kennel cough and would receive a greater benefit from administration. If your dog frequents areas where other pooch’s are present such as parks or dog shows, they benefits to prevention may outweigh any potential downsides. Similarly, if your dog is in a low risk category, the Bordetella vaccine may be one to consider skipping. A quick consultation with your vet is always a good idea when considering any medical procedure and will help give concerned owners peace of mind that they’re making the best decision for the long term health and welfare of their four legged family members.

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