None of our pets like going to the vet – and, as loving pet owners, we might even hate it just as much as our fur babies do!

But we know that going to the vet is necessary. One of the most important reasons to pay a visit is to get our pets their annual vaccinations.

Today, we’re talking about the bordetella vaccine, which protects our beloved dogs and cats from kennel cough. Although kennel cough very rarely ends in fatalities, it can be dangerous for old animals, puppies, kittens, and immunocompromised pets.

That means, it’s still important to vaccinate animals who could potentially be exposed to kennel cough. Animal shelters and boarding facilities are breeding grounds for bordetella, but a pet can pick up kennel cough from another pet at a private playdate.

Today we will explore everything you need to know about the Bordetella vaccine including the vaccine’s cost, side effects, and schedule.

What Is The Bordetella Vaccine?

What is the Bordetella Vaccine?

This essential kennel cough vaccine for dogs gets its name from the Bordetella bacteria, which causes kennel cough.

It is a highly contagious bacteria that will latch onto any mammal that crosses its path. Transmission of the bacteria is made easy through aerosol or particles in the air, just like the common cold or coronaviruses in humans. In this day and age, we all can understand that comparison.

Kennel cough is more detrimental to animals or humans with a diminished immune system. Bordetella bacteria rarely act alone; they would instead prefer to accompany a potent virus, like parainfluenza, adenovirus, or distemper attacking the respiratory system. It makes their job easier.

You likely won’t have to worry about kennel cough treatment or those viruses if your pet has already had their core vaccinations. Parainfluenza is considered an optional vaccine as well as Bordetella. If you need one, you may opt for the other since they so often work together.

Core vaccines should be given to your pet when they’re aged 6 to 8 weeks. 

Before that, your pet must avoid areas where kennel cough and other more dangerous diseases breed and multiply.

After they’ve had their first round of vaccinations, you can then take your pet for an annual booster injection so they’re protected all year round – just like an annual flu shot.

Bordetella Vaccine For Dogs

Bordetella Vaccine for DogsVaccines are important and sometimes essential for a long and happy life, but the Bordetella vaccine is optional.

If your dog is boarded often, frequents dog parks or attends doggy daycare, you really should get the Bordetella vaccine. Kennel cough is prevalent among dogs that participate in these activities.

Why is kennel cough so common if all dogs attending the boarding facility are required to have the vaccine? 

Though the Bordetella vaccine has been shown to lessen kennel cough symptoms significantly, it is not a guarantee that the animal will not acquire kennel cough.

Canine Bordetella Vaccine

The Bordetella vaccine can be administered by your veterinarian in one of three ways. Intranasally, orally or by way of injection.

Shelter puppies and dogs are recommended to have the vaccine a week before going to a dog park or boarding kennels.

Ideally, you would wait until your first round of vaccinations to get the Bordetella vaccine for your puppy at six to eight weeks. However, shelter puppies and dogs can be vaccinated as early as two weeks old.

Bordetella Vaccine For Cats

Bordetella Vaccine for CatsVaccinating your cat may be cause for contemplation. Most cats barely want to hang out with their owners, let alone other cats and dogs. You may ask yourself, does my cat really need the Bordetella vaccination?

It’s true. Cats are less likely to get kennel cough, only due to their lack of sociability.

However, if your cat is one that is frequently around other random cats and dogs, particularly unvaccinated ones, you may consider the Bordetella vaccine for your cat. 

The risk of catching infectious diseases is obviously much lower for indoor cats than for cats that frequently stroll the streets in the wee hours and engage in not-so-quiet discussions with their neighbours. For more information, check out our article can cats get kennel cough?

Feline Bordetella Vaccine

Kitten Vaccination for BordetellaThe Feline Bordetella vaccine is administered intranasally. Ideally, to avoid extra vaccinations, you wouldn’t vaccinate your kitten for Bordetella until 16 weeks of age, if at all.

Shelter cats, however, are recommended to receive the Bordetella vaccine at least one week before entry and can be vaccinated as early as four weeks old.

Bordetella Vaccine Schedule

Below, we’ve put together a simple table to show you the ideal vaccination schedule – so you know when to give your pet dog or cat the bordetella vaccine. How often they receive their vaccines depends on their age, level of health, and level of engagement with other animals.

Dog AgeCore Vaccines for DogsNon-core Vaccines for Dogs Cat AgeCore Vaccines for CatsNon-core Vaccines for Cats
6 – 8 weeksCanine

Parvovirus &

Distemper

Parainfluenza

Bordetella

Leptospirosis

Canine Influenza

Six weeksFeline Distemper

Feline Herpesvirus

Feline Calicivirus

Bordetella

as early as four weeks 

10 – 12 weeksDHPP (distemper, adenovirus [hepatitis], parvovirus & parainfluenza)Lyme Disease

Canine Influenza

Eight weeksRabiesFeline Leukemia
12 – 14 weeksN/AParainfluenza

Lyme Disease

Leptospirosis

16 – 18 weeksDHPP, Rabies12 – 16 weeksFeline Distemper

Feline Herpesvirus

Feline Calicivirus

Feline Leukemia
At 1 – 1.5 yearsDHPP, RabiesParainfluenza1.5 years or one year after the last vaccineFeline Distemper

Feline Herpesvirus

Feline Calicivirus

Feline Leukemia
Every 1- 2 yearsDHPPBordetella

Lyme Disease

Leptospirosis

Canine Influenza

Every yearBordetella
Every 1 – 3 yearsRabies depending on the type of vaccine your vet trustsParainfluenza every three yearsEvery three yearsRabies

Feline Distemper

Feline Herpesvirus

Feline Calicivirus

Now you know exactly what vaccines your pets need when they need them, and what diseases they’ll be protected from.

Remember, some of these vaccines for dogs and cats are optional, including the kennel cough vaccine, the canine Lyme disease vaccine, and the feline leukemia vaccine. Use your discretion to make an informed decision when considering these optional vaccines.

Why Is The Bordetella Vaccine Recommended?

Bordetella Vaccine RecommendedVets and other animal professionals will recommend the bordetella vaccine for dogs and cats if they are often in contact with other animals.

Here are some examples of activities that would make your cat or dog more at risk of catching kennel cough:

  • Staying at kennels or catteries when you go on holiday
  • Going to doggy daycare or cat cafés
  • Frequenting dog parks
  • Attending play dates with random animals
  • Meeting unvaccinated furry friends

If your pet does kennel cough, it’s most likely to pass on its own – but not without some distress and discomfort for the animal, and for you!

The addition of one vaccine during an annual visit could make all of the difference between a terrible cough turning into something worse and a mild cough that only gets better with time and effort.

Dogs are more likely to need and to be prompted to receive the kennel cough vaccine than cats.

As you could guess, dogs are typically more social than cats. Dogs are more likely to be at the dog parks, require routine daycare, and be boarded than cats.

If you have a cat that does visit other animals often or you are planning on boarding them or socializing them, definitely consider the Bordetella vaccine. Optional only means it’s dependent on your situation, but for a cat frequently surrounded by other unknown animals, it may be a necessity.

Shelter animals, dogs, and cats will be given the Bordetella vaccine before they enter the facility and will continue boosters during the entirety of their stay. This is not only recommended by shelters, but it is also required.

When Is The Bordetella Vaccine Ill-Advised?

Of course, vaccinating your pet is all up to your discretion and circumstances. There are certain instances where you may decide to opt-out for the Bordetella vaccine.

Your pet should not receive the Bordetella vaccine if:

  1. They are suffering from a respiratory condition.
  2. Have a known adverse reaction to vaccines
  3. They are taking antibiotics – the vaccine won’t be effective.
  4. Is severely immunocompromised or is taking medication that suppresses the immune system.

Bordetella Vaccine Cost

Bordetella Vaccine CostIf you’re on a strict budget, an ‘optional’ dog vaccine may not seem worth the extra cash, but when you think about all of the trouble you can avoid by adding the Bordetella vaccine, you may think differently.

Kennel cough is one of the most prevalent and contagious conditions your dog can encounter.

Not only is it uncomfortable for the dog, but it is also a pain for the owner who now has to quarantine their pet, administer antibiotics and kennel cough suppressants. Not to mention worrying about their beloved pet for at least two weeks while symptoms subside.

Obviously, the cost of your visit to the vet varies greatly depending on a number of factors:

  • The country or state where you live
  • The area where you live
  • Other treatments your dog needs to have at the time

Typically, in the US, the bordetella vaccine can cost anywhere from $19 to $45.

How Is The Bordetella Vaccine Administered?

How is Bordetella Vaccine Administered?The Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccine is administered via:

  1. Injection
  2. Oral medication
  3. Intranasally

Bordetella Vaccine Via Injection

Traditionally this is the way vaccines are administered. We all know the drill. With the syringe in hand, the doctor says, “little pinch” and it’s over. It can be much worse for us, animal lovers and pet owners to watch as their fur baby gets poked than bearing the pinch themselves.

Intranasal Bordetella Vaccine

The use of the intranasal vaccine continues to rise among veterinarians due to its ease of use. The intranasal vaccine is squirted directly into the nasal cavity, making the most sense, considering that it is a direct shot to the upper respiratory system where Bordetella likes to wreak havoc.

Since the Bordetella vaccine is an extra shot on top of all of the others, it’s easy to see why a doting pet owner may want to avoid the needle and opt for the intranasal vaccine.

Here’s some exciting news about the intranasal vaccine…

The Canine Intranasal Bordetella vaccine is becoming available in bivalent and trivalent forms!

These new vaccines will provide combined protection from the canine Bordetella vaccine and its partners in crime – parainfluenza, and adenovirus-2, not to be confused with adenovirus-1 or Canine Infectious Hepatitis.

Both parainfluenza and adenovirus-2 are upper respiratory diseases that the Bordetella bacterium like to pair with, manifesting as kennel cough.

It should be noted that this is the only avenue currently available for Bordetella vaccinations in cats.

Oral Bordetella Vaccine

The oral Bordetella vaccine is still relatively new, so the products’ side effects and efficacy are still weighing in the balance. Some canine oral Bordetella vaccinations are available from your vet, but your vet ultimately decides what vaccines they believe in and will offer to their clients.

Some dogs may be traumatised by needles or may not take fondly to something squirted up their nose. Some may wiggle too much and cause the vet to miss the target. After all, the vaccine won’t help if it doesn’t get into the animal.

Kennel Cough Vaccine Side Effects: What Are The Risks?

Potential Side EffectsThough vaccines can be beneficial and often necessary, they are a drug, and no medication is free of all side effects or adverse reactions. It is always recommended to keep an eye on your pets for at least 24 hours after receiving vaccines.

Bordetella Vaccine Side Effects

Side effects vary depending on which method you have chosen for your pet. Just as humans can experience flu-like symptoms after receiving the vaccination, animals may experience symptoms similar to those of the illness of which they are being vaccinated.

There must be minute amounts of the virus or bacterium in vaccines to encourage immunity in your pup. As with any vaccine, there is always a risk of developing mild symptoms of the illness.

In the case of the Bordetella vaccine, your pet may experience:

  • Listlessness or lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild fever
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting

If you notice any of these symptoms persisting longer than a day or two, call your vet and describe the symptoms. They can offer you insight on what to do next whether it be making an appointment within the next few days, getting to the emergency vet quickly or offering holistic or home remedies while the symptoms run their course.

Side Effects From Bordetella Injection

Common side effects of any injection for dogs include:

  • Soreness at the injection site
  • Loss of appetite
  • General fatigue

Keep an eye on your canine companion after their visit to the vet and maybe take things slowly for the next day or two – maybe opt for a gentle walk instead of a hike or run.

Side Effects From Intranasal Bordetella Vaccine

Common side effects of the intranasal Bordetella vaccine include:

  • Sneezing immediately after the vaccine is administered
  • Nasal discharge up to 10 days after vaccination
  • Bouts of coughing lasting up to 10 days

Oral Bordetella Vaccine Side Effects

The oral Bordetella vaccine’s side effects are not yet widely known because oral administration of the drug is relatively new. It is assumed the possible side effects would be similar to those of other vaccinations.

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Mild fever
  • Lack of energy or lethargy

As with other vaccines, the immune system will try to fight the new intruder recently introduced into your dog’s or cat’s body. There are some inherent risks associated with vaccinating cats, so ask your veterinarian for guidance.

Type of vaccinePossible side effects
Injected vaccine
  • Soreness at the injection site
  • Loss of appetite
  • General fatigue
  • Mild fever
Intranasal vaccine
  • Sneezing immediately after the vaccine is administered
  • Nasal discharge up to 10 days after vaccination
  • Bouts of coughing lasting up to 10 days
  • Fatigue
  • Mild fever
Oral vaccineStill unknown but typical side effects are assumed.

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Mild fever
  • Lack of energy or lethargy

Can My Pet Get Kennel Cough Even With The Bordetella Vaccine?

Yes. The Bordetella vaccine has been proven to reduce kennel cough symptoms, but it is not complete prevention. 

Since kennel cough can develop from other viruses like parainfluenza and adenovirus-2, it is still possible for the animal to catch kennel cough from other affected cats and dogs.

Possible Allergic Reactions To The Bordetella Vaccine

With any vaccine, there is a very slim chance that your dog or cat can have an allergic reaction, even if they’ve had the vaccine before.

Allergic reactions can happen to anyone, human or animal. Just as with a human allergic reaction, medical attention is necessary as soon as possible.

Severe allergic reactions include but are not limited to:

  1. Development of hives/swelling of paws and face
  2. Seizures
  3. Anaphylactic shock

Hives Or Swelling Of Paws And Face

Hives or Urticaria are the most common allergic reaction in dogs.

These nasty looking bumps occur when the degradation of heparin cells occurs and releases all of the histamines at once. Histamine is what causes us to sneeze, cough and attempt to get allergens out of the body.

Hives can develop from a lot of different things, but they most likely are a result of:

  • Vaccines
  • Food – some dogs like to get into the grape tomatoes or other fruits and veggies in the garden, but could be allergic to them.
  • Insect bites – many dogs are extremely allergic to bees.

How To Soothe Hives

Hives are usually treated with steroids and Benadryl. For a severe case of hives, you need to get to the emergency vet quickly. The pink antihistamines you have in the medicine cabinet will not suffice in this case. Veterinarians will have hefty doses of injected Benadryl and steroids that will work much faster and effectively than a pill.

All cases aren’t so severe, but continued inflammation can lead to swelling of the tongue or throat. This can turn a simple allergic reaction into a life-threatening situation.

Seizures

Transient (short) or Chronic (often and long) seizure disorders can develop in pets that are extra sensitive to vaccines. You probably won’t know this until the first time your animal has an adverse reaction.

What Do I Do If My Pet Has A Seizure?

  1. Stay calm – We know that watching your pet have a seizure is frightening, but for your pet’s sake, try to stay calm. Your first instinct might be to freak out, but this will not help your pet feel more at ease.
  2. Make space – Make sure your pet is safe and will not bump into anything while they are seizing, stay close enough to help but far enough to let it pass.
  3. Do not attempt to move your pet or take them to the vet while the seizure is happening – Let them be. They will most likely be a little “out of it” and exhausted. Allow them to rest and come to in their own time.
  4. Take a video – It could help to show this to your vet when you arrive in the emergency room.

Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylaxis is rare and more likely to happen with killed vaccines like rabies than live ones like Bordetella, but it can happen.

This reaction usually occurs within minutes after the injection is administered. Anaphylaxis requires immediate attention. If left untreated, it can result in:

  • Shock
  • Respiratory failure
  • Cardiac failure, or
  • Death

Cats tend to have less adverse reactions and allergic reactions than dogs. 

How Long Does The Bordetella Vaccine Last?

How Long does bordetella vaccine last?

The Bordetella vaccine is suggested annually and is thought to last around a year.

In cases where a dog is living in a shelter, caretakers may elect to give a booster every six months due to the high risk of contracting kennel cough in those types of surroundings. Even groomers and boarding facilities may require more frequent boosters for enrollment in their services.

Some studies have shown that immunities from vaccinations can last longer than we once thought, but how can you know for sure?

Let’s Talk About Titers

Some studies have shown that immunities from vaccinations can last longer than we once thought, but how can you know for sure? Read on.

A titer is the measure of antibodies in the blood. There are tests available to see if your pet is, in fact, already immune to some vaccines. In that case, you could rest easy knowing they are protected from the virus or disease and opt-out of revaccination for that year.

Titers require a blood test. If you want more than one titer, have the vet draw enough blood for all of them, so your pet isn’t getting poked more than is needed. 

You would most likely have to have your pet’s blood drawn and send it to a titer testing centre until recently. Now there are more and more veterinarians offering titer testing in the UK.

Are Titers Expensive?

A titer costs between $40-$150 – which is pretty expensive. Still, when you consider that you may not have to pay for the booster shots, it can be financially beneficial.

Things to consider if you’re concerned about over-vaccination:

  • Try a titer – you could avoid booster vaccinations.
  • Take the time to think about what vaccines your pet’s need

Suppose you’re an outdoorsy type that hikes and often camps with your dog – get a Lyme disease vaccine for them. Ticks are no joke.

Suppose you prefer to spend quality time on the couch, binging TV with your faithful companion – a Lyme disease vaccine might not be a priority. Just take the time to make an informed decision.

Conclusion

Vaccines were created for a good reason. They have been successful in preventing an array of diseases in our pets. 

Use what you now know to make knowledgeable and enlightened decisions about your pet’s health and vaccinations. We will be here to help guide you with a plethora of information surrounding pets and kennel cough.