You’ve heard a lot of different things about vaccines. Are they worth it? How effective are they really? Which type of vaccine should I request for my dog? Are some less uncomfortable than others?

Don’t stress. We’re here to help you decipher all the information out there about the Kennel Cough vaccine. Let’s start from the top with a quick review.

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough is more of an all-encompassing term for “a nasty cough” in dogs. It gets its name from spreading like wildfire in places similar to kennels, hence the name Kennel Cough. Dogs are most likely to catch Kennel Cough when they frequent animal shelters, dog parks, or doggy daycares.

You should see your vet and find out what you’re dealing with exactly. Dog cough could come about because of upper respiratory issues like Kennel cough or lower respiratory issues like heartworm or lung infections.

Kennel Cough comes from the Bordetella bacterium. This bacteria is airborne and is transmitted from dog to dog by way of inhalation. The bacteria travel in aerosol form. A dog will most often contract the Bordetella bacteria only after another virus has compromised their immune system. After a virus has made its place, the Bordetella bacteria are free to jump on those compromised cells and start a whole bout of trouble.

Viruses that typically accompany Bordetella in manifesting the elusive “Kennel Cough” are:

  • Adenovirus
  • Parainfluenza and
  • Distemper

Because there are so many variables within the illness itself, one kennel cough vaccine will not cure or prevent every Kennel Cough mutation.

What is the Kennel Cough Vaccine Called?

Bordetella Vaccine for DogsThe vaccine for Kennel Cough is called the Bordetella vaccine, but your vet will know it by either name. The Bordetella vaccine is a non-core vaccine meaning that the vaccine is optional, but it is encouraged to assess your dog’s needs and their daily surroundings when deciding to have the vaccine.

Non-core illnesses are self-limiting and tend to run their course pretty quickly. If ignored, however, they can turn into something hazardous like tracheobronchitis pneumonia. This is the case with Kennel Cough.

Does my Dog Need the Kennel Cough Vaccine?

The Bordatella vaccine is optional, but it is recommended for dogs who play and socialize a lot since dogs are most likely to get kennel cough in groups of other animals.

It is also highly recommended that puppies and younger dogs have the vaccine because they are so susceptible to diseases, viruses, and bacteria at this age. Older dogs who may be immunocompromised are no different.

You may think, “Boris barely goes outside anymore and hardly sees other dogs, so why bother? Well, imagine a nursing home. The senior folks are in their room all day, not moving too much, with compromised immunities. One sick nurse comes in, and all it takes is an uncovered sneeze, and before you know it, grandma is in the Emergency room with pneumonia. Your older dog can have a similar experience.

If you ever plan to board your dog, participate in training classes, enroll in doggy daycare, or any other activity that allows your dog to be within proximity of other dogs, the bordetella vaccine, a useful preventative measure, is usually required.

There are some options to keep your pet protected without poking them every year. We’ll get to those in a few.

How long does the Kennel Cough Vaccine last?

Kennel Cough Vaccine - How Long Is It Good For?Typically, one year.

The Bordetella vaccine is a given option every year if you choose to continue. You may decide that you would like to avoid one needle on your dog’s behalf because they are never exposed to other dogs.

How often does my dog need the Kennel Cough vaccine?

If you board your dog or are around other friends, you will be prompted by your vet at your wellness visit every year. They will offer the Bordetella vaccine along with distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. This can come in one combination booster shot referred to as DHPP.

I know, that’s a lot of meds to inject into our little babies. If you’re an overthinker, particularly about your pooch, you may want to look into titers.

What are Titers (Tie-derz)? 

The concentration of an antibody, as determined by finding the highest dilution at which it is still able to cause agglutination of the antigen. 

In lemans terms, it is the level of antibodies in the blood. The more antibodies your dog has for a specific virus, the less likely they are to contract it. Titers are available for vaccines like rabies, parvovirus, adenovirus, and parainfluenza, but it isn’t always easy.

Can I get a titer at my vet?

Though several veterinarian offices have titers, many will not and some won’t offer them unless you ask. Titers are a bit more expensive than vaccines and can sometimes be ridiculously expensive at the vet.

We know from the movies and the pharmaceutical epidemic of over-prescribing “medicine” that meds equal money. Vaccines can be the same. We’re not saying your vet is inherently evil because they offer all the vaccines; we’re saying that you need to be informed and ask the right questions.

How is Kennel Cough Vaccine Administered?

There are three ways the Bordetella vaccine is administered.

  1. Intranasally
  2. Orally
  3. Injected

Intranasally

The dog receives a few drops or a puff of liquid squirted into the nose. It isn’t the most comfortable feeling, but it is very effective. Since the vaccine goes directly into the nose, it goes right to the upper respiratory system. This way, the vaccine can offer immunity where kennel cough most often starts-in the air we breathe.

Orally

The vaccine can also be delivered orally, in spray form. This option also produces protective antibodies when it touches the inside of the dog’s cheek. This option isn’t always available at local vets and is not preferred by dogs.

Injected

The classic administration for vaccinations is also available for Bordetella.

Reaction to Kennel Cough Vaccine

Bordetella Vaccine Side Effects & Possible ReactionsReactions to vaccines usually happen one to two hours after the vaccine and vary from dog to dog.

Common side effects from the intranasal vaccine

  • Sneezing right after the drops are administered
  • Nasal discharge up to 3-10 days after
  • Persistent bouts of coughing 3-10 days after
  • If coughing lasts for more than a few days, give your vet a call.
  • Soreness of injection site
  • Loss of appetite
  • General fatigue are common after any vaccine

Can Dogs Get Kennel Cough from the Vaccine?

There is a small possibility that the dog can develop Kennel Cough after the vaccine due to the introduction of a small number of bacteria, BUT it is extremely rare.

If your dog does happen to develop a Kennel cough soon after vaccination, the dog was most likely exposed to the bacteria before the vaccination had time to take effect.

Remember that a virus accompanies the bacteria bordetella in a lot of cases of kennel cough. So your dog could have picked up a virus before the vet administered the vaccine pushing it to the next phase of the illness.

Your dog could have even picked up the bacteria from going to the vet. This bacteria is extremely contagious, though it most often clears up on its own.

Your best bet is to keep your dog up to date on their core vaccines and the optional ones of your choosing.

Will my Dog be Sick After the Kennel Cough Vaccine

Studies show that when weight decreases, complications from vaccines increase. So when the same amount injected into a Great Dane is injected into a Chihuahua, the Chihuahua would be more likely to experience side effects. Watch your itty bitties reactions closely.

Other than the common side effects like:

  • Runny nose
  • Soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low fever

It is unlikely that your dog will get sick from the vaccine, but in some cases, dogs can have a more severe reaction like:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or
  • Difficulty breathing

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms after the vaccine, contact your vet.

How effective is the Kennel Cough Vaccine

There is no vaccine for Bordetella that will protect your dog, across the board, in every situation. Even with vaccination, a dog can still develop kennel cough. This is because, like with the flu, there are different variants and strains. It’s impossible to protect from every mutation, but the vaccine does it’s best to keep the bacteria at bay. The vaccine can also expedite recovery and lessen typical symptoms of kennel cough.

It is recommended that dogs entering a shelter should have the intranasal vaccine no less than a week before entering the shelter because of the possible transmission between dogs. The Bordetella vaccine is otherwise deemed optional, depending on the circumstances.

All of the options will provide some protection, but there are pros and cons to each.

Pros and Cons of Intranasal Vaccine

Intranasal Pros

  1. Avoid the needle
  2. Faster development of immunity
  3. Effective for puppies

Avoid the needle

  • If you’re like most dog owners, you’ll avoid poking your pup whenever possible.
  • The syringe can be more painful for small dogs; you might opt for the Intranasal for your shih-tzu or pomeranian.

Faster development of immunity 

  • In most cases, an Intranasal offers immunity effectively and relatively quickly because it is placed at the infection source. Immunity can begin in as little as three days!
  • Though the antibodies start to develop as soon as they enter the nasal cavity, it can take up to two weeks for assured protection from other dogs.

Effective for puppies

  • Puppies are already having a ton of vaccinations early in life. Why not let them go with one less injection?
  • The intranasal is better suited for puppies who may still have maternal antibodies left in their system. These can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months and deems the injectable vaccine ineffective. This is because mucusol vaccines are not affected by maternal antibodies; therefore, the vaccine will still be useful even if there are antibodies present in the blood.

Intranasal Cons

The intranasal vaccine may not be the best option for:

  1. Puppies who have contracted Kennel Cough before
  2. Dogs who have never had the vaccine delivered through injection
  3. Some dogs don’t want things sprayed in their noses.

Puppies who have contracted kennel cough before 

Puppies are usually protected with the use of an intranasal vaccine. Still, if they have already had kennel cough, they may not respond well to the direct delivery of the vaccine.

Dogs who have never had the vaccine delivered through injection.

The injection is older and more foolproof though maybe not any more effective. Often vets like to use the injection for boosters even if they initially got the intranasal vaccine.

Some dogs don’t want things sprayed in their nose.

This is a no-brainer. Some dogs don’t want your hands near their face, let alone hands spraying stuff up their noses. If your dog is a biter, you might consider the injection.

Type of vaccineProsCons
Intranasal
  • Virtually painless
  • Faster immunity development
  • Annual
  • Safe for young pups
  • Can cause nasal drips & sneezing
  • Vet will probably give injection as a booster
Oral
  • Annual
  • Easy if the dog cooperates
  • Painless
  • Yucky taste
  • Not always available or recommended
Injection
  • Commonly used
  • Annual
  • Effective for all
  • May be easier to administer for aggressive dogs
  • Soreness at injection site
  • Takes 2-4 weeks for immunity development.
  • Needles!

Pros and Cons of The Kennel Cough Injection

Here are the pros

  1. Certified by vets
  2. Annual protection
  3. Suitable for aggressive dogs

Known and most commonly used by vets

A vet may not be familiar with the Intranasal vaccination method, but they will know how to administer shots like the back of their hand!

Annual protection

Like the Intranasal vaccine, the injectable also offers annual protection. However, a booster is needed four to six weeks after the initial shots in puppies.

Suitable for aggressive dogs

It can be much easier to quickly administer a shot to an aggressive dog’s hindquarters than it would be to try to squirt something in their nose.

Cons

  1. The needle!
  2. Pain and soreness at the site
  3. Takes longer for immunity to develop

The needle!

Some dogs are very sensitive, especially the really small ones.

Pain and soreness at the site

Like the flu shot, it can leave the injection site a bit sore or swollen.

Takes longer for immunity to develop

The injection does protect from Kennel cough just as well as the intranasal, but it can take up to four weeks for immunity to develop. Intranasal are more often used in animal shelters because of the quick turn around and effectiveness.

Kennel Cough Vaccine For puppies

Kennel Cough Vaccine for PuppiesPuppies can be even more likely to catch kennel cough, not only because they are immunocompromised, but because they were just with a bunch of other dogs before their forever person adopted them.

More than likely, the puppy came from an animal shelter, a kennel, a breeder, which are all familiar places to pick up Tracheobronchitis. Most shelters will arm adoptable dogs with their first shots to avoid the spread of kennel cough and other diseases.

If you’ve just gotten a new puppy without any of their first shots, keep them away from other dogs until you can get them to the vet. Vets usually start the first round of vaccines at four to six weeks, at which time the Bordetella vaccine will be an option.

It’s smart to go ahead and get the bordetella vaccine for your puppy along with the other core vaccines at least by the age of 12 and 16 weeks, and earlier if they will be hanging with any canine peers. Check with your vet every step of the way with a new pup.

Vaccination Schedule for Puppies
AgeRecommended VaccinesOptional Vaccines
6 to 8 weeksParvovirus & DistemperBordetella
10 to 12 weeksDHPP (distemper, adenovirus [hepatitis], parvovirus & parainfluenza)Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Influenza, Lyme disease (for the wilderness lovers)
16 – 18 weeksDHPP, RabiesLeptospirosis, Bordetella, Influenza, Lyme disease
1 – 1.5 yearsDHPP, RabiesCoronavirus, Leptospirosis, Lyme disease, Bordetella
Every 1 – 2 yearsDHPPCoronavirus, Influenza, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
Every 1 – 3 yearsRabiesN/A

The Controversy of Over-Vaccination 

Some vets and animal shelters will vaccinate a puppy earlier than necessary, which isn’t the end of the world, but it isn’t always necessary.

You see, puppies inherit some antibodies from their mother. Depending on the colostrum the puppy received from mama, or whether mom was vaccinated or not, the puppy might have some antibodies built up. If this is the case, the vaccinations don’t do anything. Evidence like this makes us wonder if our puppies need all of those shots.

Like in life, there is no cure-all or perfect preventative. It is estimated that 1 of 1000 dogs don’t even respond to the vaccine for parvovirus, a dangerous virus that mostly occurs in puppies. Requesting a titer is the only way you would know your dog had no antibodies present.

Some argue that vaccines like parvo, distemper, and parainfluenza are good for life. If that is true, then there would be no point in these booster shots every 1-2 years.

Some veterinarians are passionate about educating people about pet over-vaccination, like this guy, Dr. Robb. He advocates for titers and fewer vaccines for your furry friend based on titer testing and antibodies present in the blood. He also argues that vaccines are “one size fits all,” but in reality, smaller dogs have more reactions to vaccines than other dogs.

So, if you’re interested in a titer to see if your pet is, in fact, immune to a virus and could go without the vaccine, inquire with your veterinarian.

Conclusion – Vaccinate Your Social Pup

The moral of the story is, if your dog is boarding often, goes to doggy daycare, goes to training classes, or anything that involves being a complete furry socialite, then keep up on the Bordetella vaccine along with the core vaccines.

You can also get a titer to test the dog’s immunity but whatever you do, keep your pet protected.

We are all they have, and we have to prove our worthiness to them.