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You’ve probably heard a lot of different things about kennel cough, but you may not have heard as much about Bordetella in dogs. The funny thing is, they are one and the same.

What is Bordetella in Dogs?

You see, Bordetella in dogs is a common affliction in several areas around the world. Sometimes veterinary professionals will use the terms kennel cough and Bordetella interchangeably, which can confuse a doting and worried pet parent. This article will help to clear things up.

Even more confusing is that there are several names for kennel cough. Many are much more eloquent than the most well-known.

  1. Kennel Cough
  2. Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex or CIRD
  3. Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis
  4. Bordetella (not entirely accurate)
  5. Canine Cough

Kennel Cough

This collection of upper respiratory diseases was dubbed “kennel cough” due to the increased likelihood of acquiring the infection in a place where animals are “kenneled”. Everyone will know what you are referring to when you say, “kennel cough.” in truth, it is a crude and somewhat inaccurate name, but it is easy to remember.

Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex or CIRD

CIRD may be the most accurate name for the disease at hand, yet it is the least used. Granted, it doesn’t roll off of the tongue like kennel cough.

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis

 A little more commonly used when collecting bacterial and viral infections that cause Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis or kennel cough.


Kennel cough is often referred to as Bordetella in dogs and cats. However, this isn’t entirely accurate. Bordetella may be a nasty bacteria that has a part in causing kennel cough, but it is not the only culprit involved.

However, the kennel cough vaccine is a vaccine that offers protection from the Bordetella Bronchiseptica bacteria alone.

Canine Cough

Sometimes you may even hear canine cough as a broad term referring to kennel cough. This term is just too vague to describe kennel cough alone. There are many reasons for various kinds of coughing in dogs. Kennel cough isn’t the only reason for the canine cough.

What is Bordetella?

What is bordetellaThe Bordetella bacteria is the top culprit responsible for the infection, commonly called kennel cough. Kennel cough is also known as Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis or Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRD).

Bordetella affects the upper respiratory system in many mammals, wild and domesticated. Rarely, even significantly immunocompromised humans can get kennel cough. The Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria is both

  1. Pathogenic
  2. Parasitic


All of the possible causes of kennel cough are pathogenic. Pathogenic is a bacteria or virus capable of creating infection and disease.


Eeew, is Bordetella really parasitic? I don’t see any worms or anything!

A pet parent may be shocked and a little disgusted that the Bordetella Bronchiseptica bacteria is parasitic and lives in the upper respiratory tract.

Bordetella, however, is not visible to the naked eye like tapeworms. You won’t see Bordetella as it sheds from the dog through the air via:

  • Sneezes
  • Coughs
  • Licking and Nuzzling

Although you can’t see the bacteria, it is there! One must follow appropriate steps of isolation while a pet is recovering from a Bordetella infection.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica  is a Gram-negative, aerobic coccobacillus, is known as the leading pathogen involved in canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRD-C) or “kennel cough.”


What you really need to know is that Bordetella is a super contagious bacteria that spreads like crazy, especially in places that are crowded and poorly ventilated like:

  • Doggy daycares
  • Boarding facilities
  • Animal shelters
  • Dogs shows
  • Training classes
  • Grooming salons

Although many animals and domesticated pets are susceptible to the bacteria, domestic dogs are the most likely to acquire the infection due to the higher likelihood that they will frequent a facility like the above mentioned.

How Serious is Bordetella in Dogs?

The severity of a Bordetella infection can range in severity from asymptomatic to debilitating. However, most pets endure a case of kennel cough with mild and minimal symptoms.

Signs of a Bordetella Infection Include:

  • The hacking, gagging, or honking cough
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Low fever
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Lethargy

Can Cats Get Bordetella?

Cats can get kennel cough from their housemates, but cats are generally much less likely to get the infection simply because they tend to be less social than dogs; therefore, they’re typically not boarded.

If you have cats, you’ll agree they are usually independent creatures that enjoy their autonomy. Dogs, however, need a little more looking after.

Can Humans Get Bordetella from Dogs?

Good question!

Can humans get kennel cough?  

Technically yes but, it is improbable for humans to get kennel cough from their pets. In super rare cases, severely immunosuppressed people did contract a Bordetella Bronchiseptica infection assumingly from their pets.

Who is at risk of catching the Bordetella Bronchiseptica bacteria?

Although Bordetella Bronchiseptica is technically zoonotic, it is so rare that it almost isn’t worth putting the thought out there. However, if you live with a loved one who is severely immunocompromised, it is essential to note the possibility of infection from pet to human.

What is Bordetella Vaccine for Dogs?

What is bordetella vaccineThe Bordetella vaccine may also be called the kennel cough vaccine. You may remember that the kennel cough is often combined with many viral infections and the bordetella bacterial infection. However, it is worth noting that the causes of kennel cough reach far beyond the bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria alone.

The Bordetella vaccine is non-core, so it is not required by your veterinarian or state and city regulation. Therefore, one may opt-out of the bordetella vaccine if they feel the vaccine is unnecessary because:

  1. The dog is not boarded
  2. The dog does not go to doggy daycare
  3. The dog doesn’t frequent places with lots of other dogs.

The Bordetella vaccine blocks the Bordetella bacteria from inhabiting the upper respiratory system of dogs and puppies. The Bordetella vaccine effectively limits kennel cough symptoms but does not guarantee 100% immunity to canine infectious tracheobronchitis, AKA kennel cough.

What do you mean the Bordetella vaccine doesn’t guarantee immunity to kennel cough or CIRD?!

Yes, sorry to say, it’s true.

The Bordetella bacteria is, however, a substantial known culprit in kennel cough. Still, because Bordetella is not the only culprit responsible for Canine infectious tracheobronchitis, it is impossible to eliminate all possible infections. Therefore a vaccinated animal will endure milder symptoms of kennel cough than an unvaccinated counterpart.

What is the Bordetella Shot for Dogs?

The injectable version of the vaccine is one that effectively lessens the risk of Bordetella in dogs and canine infectious tracheobronchitis. Bronchicine is one option for pups eight weeks and older, but your veterinarian can recommend their favorite and recommend the suitable vaccine for your dog.

Bordetella Vaccine How Often

Bordetella how oftenHow Often Do Dogs Need Bordetella Shots?

Despite the administration method, the kennel cough vaccine is given annually after the first year vaccination series.

Unlike many other core vaccines that are given every three years, the Bordetella vaccine is considered necessary every year for continued protection.

Some high-risk facilities may require a Bordetella booster every six months.

It is up to the discretion of the doggy daycare or other high-risk facility whether they need bi-annual boosters.

How Long is the Bordetella Shot Good For?

The Bordetella vaccine is known to last for about 13 months, so you have a month of leeway when considering vaccination against Bordetella in dogs.

Never give a dog the Bordetella vaccine if you suspect that they have kennel cough. Giving the vaccine during an active infection could prompt a deeper infection and even pneumonia.

Of course, there is always the possibility of side effects and adverse reactions when dealing with vaccines and medications of all sorts.

What to expect after your pet’s vaccination 

How Long Does the Bordetella Vaccine Take to be Effective?

How long does the bordetella vaccine take to be effectiveVaccine effectiveness can vary depending on the type of vaccine and the administering method. In general, bordetella vaccines can take anywhere from 3 to 14 days to be fully effective.

The Bordetella vaccine can be administered in three different ways

  1. Injectable
  2. Oral
  3. Intranasal

The injectable Bordetella vaccine is a tried and true method of immunization trusted by many Veterinarians. The injection takes about 10 to 14 days to become effective in limiting the risk of infection.

Sometimes the bordetella vaccine can come as a 2 for one like this, including Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine parainfluenza.

Sounds great, right? It may be, but please consult your vet. The DHPP core vaccine already includes parainfluenza, so it may not be necessary for a dog who stays up to date on vaccinations.

Bordetella Vaccine How Soon Before Boarding?

It is recommended to vaccinate at least ten days before entering a boarding facility, a dog show, dog park, daycare, or animal shelter. The urgency of vaccination is expected prior to entry into these high-risk facilities due to the highly contagious nature of Bordetella in dogs.

The Intranasal vaccine is quite popular with veterinarians in private practices and shelters alike. However, the intranasal vaccine is often the preferred vaccine for shelters due to its quick and easy administering and its fast effectiveness.

The intranasal vaccine can be administered to puppies and kittens as early as three weeks which is helpful when a litter of babies needs to be admitted to the local animal shelter.

Due to their underdeveloped immune systems, puppies and kittens would be at very high risk for catching kennel cough in a shelter without the vaccine.

The oral vaccine is not offered as much as the injectable or intranasal. However, the oral vaccine is still preferred by some pet parents whose animals may have an easier time with a pill for whatever reason.

To stay on the safe side, vaccinate at least two weeks before you plan to board a dog. 

Oral Versus Intranasal Vaccines for Bordetella in Dogs

Oral VaccineIntranasalInjectable
Easier to administer for dogs that won’t stay still.

It takes longer to be fully effective.

May cause nausea after administering

Annual vaccine



Fastest effectiveness

May cause runny nose after administering

Annual vaccine




May cause soreness at the place of injection.

Annual vaccine

This comparative study found that the oral vaccine is less consistent in its protection against Bordetella Bronchiseptica and kennel cough than the intranasal vaccine. 

The evidence that the intranasal vaccine is more consistent makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

The intranasal vaccine is delivered with a poof of air straight up the nostril and into the upper respiratory system. That’s right, straight to the source! IT’s no wonder the intranasal can offer faster efficacy and sometimes even more protection.

Can Cats Get the Bordetella Vaccine?

As discussed above, cats are less likely to catch Bordetella because of their unlikeliness to be boarded. The thought of a cat at daycare is a bit laughable, but there are probably some felines out there that love company, right?!

Although cats are much less likely to contract kennel cough, they are still very vulnerable to a Bordetella bronchiseptica infection if exposed. Therefore, kittens will also be vaccinated for Bordetella prior to entering an animal shelter or other high-risk areas.

Ultimately, the Bordetella vaccine is not a necessary annual vaccine for the typical kitty cat.

How Many Bordetella Shots for Puppy

How many bordetella shots for puppyPuppies’ first year can be highly stressful for the puppy and the caretaker. During puppies’ first few months on earth, they receive several vaccines, including:

  • Rabies
  • DHPP (4 or 5 in one)
  • and Bordetella if necessary

Bordetella is a non-core vaccine and is not required. A pet parent can choose to abstain from the vaccine or wait until the pup is a bit older. However, if the puppy will be around other dogs, especially unvaccinated ones, it may be to vaccinate your puppy.

Bordetella Vaccination Schedule for First Year Puppies

The initial Bordetella vaccine series will be given to high-risk pups, ideally between 6 and 8 weeks. Puppies entering a shelter may be vaccinated intranasally as early as three weeks. After the first vaccination comes three more at 9-12 weeks, 16 weeks, and a year.

Be sure to keep an unvaccinated pup at home and away from other dogs while they await their vaccinations. 

Age of PupVaccine
6-8 weeks (3 at the earliest)Bordetella Initial vaccine
12 weeksBordetella Booster
16 weeksBordetella Booster
One yearBordetella Booster
Every yearBordetella Booster

How Long Does Bordetella last?

How long does bordetella last?A Bordetella infection lasts about ten days; however, it is possible for some mild symptoms to persist even after a dog seems back to normal. It is advised to keep a dog away from social situations and other animals for two weeks after clinical signs commence.

For more information, check out our article – How long does kennel cough last?

Sometimes a kennel cough infection can come and go without much fuss at all. Even if a dog isn’t showing severe signs of kennel cough, it can still be contagious and spread the infection to other dogs. It is crucial to avoid high-risk areas during this time.

Consult your vet if your dog starts coughing.


Humans know the value of vaccinations. 

The human race has eliminated some of the world’s most detrimental and life-altering plagues and diseases with the development of vaccines. More recently, humans have developed vaccines to save our lovable, furry family members from life-threatening diseases as well.

You know your pet best, so do what you know is best for them. With the help of your family veterinarian and your keen knowledge of Bordetella in dogs, your pet is in good hands.