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Bordetella Vaccination for Dogs: Everything You Wish to Know

Vaccinating our pets against ailments is the foremost duty of a responsible owner. However, you, as a pet parent, must refrain from vaccinating your dog against everything there is, especially if he doesn't need it. Bordetella is one such vaccine, and this DogAppy article will tell you all about it.
DogAppy Staff
How does a vaccine work?
The mechanism of a vaccine involves introducing the body to a nonpathogenic virus or bacteria so that the immune system recognizes it and manages to fight it in the future. Once the body encounters a new agent to fight, it begins to produce antibodies, which is a person's defense system against virus and bacteria.
The Bordetella vaccine has its fair share of supporters and bashers, both within the veterinary community. There are some who advocate its use, whereas others simply dismiss its usage and question its efficacy. We'll try to clear the air.
Understanding the Risk of Bordetella
Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium that is known to cause upper respiratory tract disease in dogs. It may affect humans, although such instances are extremely rare. It is one of the more common bacterial causes of canine infectious tracheobronchitis, commonly known as kennel cough. Bordetella is understood to be highly contagious, easily transmitted through the air or direct contact, and resistant to destruction in the environment.

However, it is important to note that it typically causes no more than a mild illness in healthy adult dogs. In puppies or dogs with other underlying health issues, however, it can cause severe illness or even death in rare cases due to the immune system being underdeveloped or compromised.
Bordetella Vaccination Frequency
  • Puppies can be vaccinated using the intranasal vaccine as early as 3 weeks of age, with the next dose administered 4 weeks later.
  • The injectable vaccine can be administered starting at 6 to 8 weeks of age.
  • In case of adult dogs, the intranasal vaccine can be given once, and the injectable vaccine should be given twice, two to four weeks apart.
  • Booster doses may be given every 6-12 months after assessing the risk of exposure.
Does My Dog Need it?
  • The vaccine is a non-core one, which means that it is not recommended for all dogs.
  • It is specifically aimed at dogs who may be susceptible to the bacteria―for instance, dogs who will be spending a few days in a kennel (while the owners are away), or at the groomer or in a clinic.
  • It can also be administered to dogs who are about to come in close contact with pets or animals other than those who are part of the household.
  • This vaccine is administered by injection under the skin (subcutaneous injection) or intranasally (nose drops).
Bordetella Vaccine Side Effects
The Bordetella vaccine does not come without side effects―and mind you, these are far from light. Your pet may experience transient coughing, sneezing, or nasal discharge lasting anywhere between 3 to 10 days. It can also cause a serious anaphylactoid reaction. It is also unsuitable for pregnant dogs, or those who have had a history of reactions to vaccines.
Concerns About the Vaccine
Despite being regularly administered to countless pets, there are several experienced doctors who question the efficacy of this vaccine. Renowned immunologist Dr. Ronald Schultz notes, "Many animals receive "kennel cough" vaccines that include Bordetella and CPI and/or CAV-2 every 6 to 9 months without evidence that this frequency of vaccination is necessary or beneficial. In contrast, other dogs are never vaccinated for kennel cough and disease is not seen. CPI immunity lasts at least 3 years when given intranasally, and CAV -2 immunity lasts a minimum of 7 years parenterally for CAV-I. These two viruses in combination with Bordetella bronchiseptica are the agents most often associated with kennel cough, however, other factors play an important role in disease (e.g. stress, dust, humidity, molds, mycoplasma, etc.), thus kennel cough is not a vaccine preventable disease because of the complex factors associated with this disease. Furthermore, this is often a mild to moderate self-limiting disease. I refer to it as the 'Canine Cold.'"
Doctors opine that kennel cough falls into the category of preventable diseases, and they draw parallels with common cold. Just like the cold, it is self-limiting as well. In fact, vets have also recommended the use of certain OTC medications to cure the condition.
So, the next time you are faced with the prospect of giving the Bordetella vaccine to your dog, weigh all your options before you make the decision.
Disclaimer: This DogAppy article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for the advice of a veterinarian.