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Bordetella Vaccine for Dogs – 7 Common Myths


The Bordetella vaccine for dogs isn’t considered to be part of the core vaccine schedule. However, it might be considered necessary if your dog is (or will be) participating at doggy day cares, walking in parks where there other other dogs, etc.

Ultimately, it’s up to you as the dog owner. This post will help you to make an informed decision. By the end of this post you will have a better sense of the risks compared to whether your dog really needs the bordetella vaccine.

Study Conducted on Canine Medical History

The Infographic above shows some results of a report gathered from the medical files of dogs who’ve been vaccinated. NOTE: The data gathered represents dogs vaccinated in general, not just with the bordetella vaccine.

Medical records from January 1st, 2002, to December 31st, 2003, were searched for various reactions to the bordetella vaccine. The reactions they looked for included general/non-specific types, allergic reactions (itching, swelling), hives, and anaphylaxis.

The research focused on over a million dogs that had been vaccinated at 360 veterinary hospitals and was intended to determine how many dogs presented with reactions within 3 days of the vaccination(s).

To read the detailed abstract, visit Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Risk Factors for Dogs Over 22 Pounds

Results point to a higher degree of safety for larger dogs. Risk of reaction rose by 12% for each additional vaccination administered in one visit.

Risk Factors for Dogs Under 22 Pounds

Results point to a greater risk of an adverse event for dogs under 22 pounds and a 27% increase for each additional vaccination administered in one visit.

How Do We Know if the Bordetella Vaccinations are Safe or Not?

The industry manufacturing these vaccines subject their product to quality assurance monitoring protocols to meet their own, internal expectations, but also to satisfy government requirements.

Currently, the only feedback available to study the effects of the bordetella vaccine for dogs comes from voluntary disclosure by veterinarians who are encouraged to report adverse effects to the US Food & Drug Administration.

The results reported can represent any number of side-effects from mild and common to severe and possibly life-threatening. Important factors to consider when interpreting the results include:

  • dogs age
  • dogs underlying health
  • dogs weight
  • the number of vaccines being offered in one visit.

To get a better understanding on how the reporting process works, read the information at the link below.

READ: How to Report Animal Drug Side Effects

7 Common Myths about the Bordetella Vaccine for Dogs

The bordetella vaccine for dogs is considered non-core or optional for dogs at low risk of contracting bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough).
Kennel cough is actually an umbrella term to describe a set of symptoms that resemble a bad cold. The main symptom of kennel cough is – of course – coughing.

Healthy dogs who contract kennel cough will recover with a little rest and TLC. Unfortunately, some dogs with weakened immune systems (puppies, seniors, or dogs with other underlying conditions) could end up with complications like pneumonia which is life-threatening in an immune compromised dog.

How Safe is Safe?

There are some reasonable precautions your veterinarian should take when administering vaccinations. Vaccinations released for use have been tested for purity, potency, safety, and how well they work.

The veterinarian has a protocol to follow to ensure your dog is at the least risk possible when receiving vaccinations. These protocols can include:

Manufacturer Instructions

The manufacturer instructions includes dosing information and that dosing information has been tested to determine the maximum volume necessary to protect your dog from illness.

Risk Assessment

Veterinarians will consider risk versus benefit before administering non-core vaccinations. These considerations include:

  • Likelihood of exposure to disease agent
  • How easily the disease might be transmitted
  • Dog’s health
  • Human risks should the disease be transferred
  • Any other relevant factors

Case-by-Case Assessment

Veterinarians will consider each dog individually to determine the safest protocol. Some things they will consider include:

  • Dog’s age
  • Dog’s breed
  • Health status of the dog
  • Environmental considerations
  • Owner and animal lifestyle
  • Travel
  • Geographic considerations,
  • Susceptibility

Serum Antibody Measurements

In order to monitor the dog’s baseline immunity, serum antibody tests can be conducted.

Should My Dog Get the Bordetella Vaccine or Not?

This is where you have to make the decision. There are plenty of valid reasons why you may decide not to do it.

Money is one good reason. A low-cost clinic might chart $10 to $15 per shot where other veterinarian clinics may charge a little more for that shot and tack on an examination fee.

For up-to-date information on basic prices for pet vaccines, visit: Veterinary Practice News

Before you make the decision, it’s important to clear up some myths. Have a look at the following and feel free to leave me comments at: [email protected]

This is a healthy adult dog with no signs of kennel cough. Kennel cough can be prevented through administration of the bordetella vaccine.
Happy dog, running and having fun

Myth #1: Vaccinations are Dangerous

Your veterinarian will go over the risks versus health benefits of vaccinations. Just as there are risks with over-the-counter medications, there are (and will likely always be) risks associated with vaccination.

However, it’s important to remember that the majority of vaccinations given to healthy dogs are very safe. It’s very possible your dog will have mild, transient side effects like soreness or lack of appetite for a few days post-vaccine.

As mentioned above, veterinarians will take an individual approach to vaccinations, answer your questions, and monitor for side-effects.

Three Types of Bordetella Vaccines for Dogs

There are currently three types of bordetella vaccines for dogs including:

Inactivated injectables

Inactivated injectables do not have the same power as the live attenuated ones which means the possible need for regular boosters to keep immunity at peak.

Live attenuated for intranasal administration

Live attenuated vaccines are stronger and longer lasting. These vaccines are created by passing the virus or bacteria through cells and/or other mediums multiple times during the development phase. In doing this, it forces a random mutation which, hopefully, delivers a non-virulent agent.

The good thing about this type of vaccine is that it doesn’t require certain additives, like aluminum. In addition, the strength of the dose is typically enough to provide long-term immunity without the need for frequent boosters.

Live attenuated vaccines are the closest to the real virus without actually causing the virus to develop in the body.

*source: ScienceDirect: Biotechnology Research and Innovation, Volume 1, Issue 1, January – December 2017, pages 6 – 13.

Mild Side Effects May Include:

  • Fever
  • No Appetite
  • Mild facial or paw swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain around the injection site (not an issue with intranasal administration)

Live attenuated oral vaccines

Live attenuated oral vaccines are created much the same way as detailed above. The difference is in the way it is administered. In this case, the vaccine is given orally by mouth.

Myth #2: The Bordetella Vaccine is Completely Unnecessary

In some cases, this might be true. If your dog will never frequent dog-parks, boarding facilities, or training classes, it’s probably safe to assume he/she doesn’t need the vaccine.

The reality is that many boarding facilities, doggy day cares, and other arenas where dogs are in close contact with each other, require proof that your dog has had the bordetella vaccine.

Deciding Whether Your Dog Should Get the Vaccine

The reality is that it’s completely up to you. You should never feel pressured to have your dog vaccinated if you don’t feel entirely comfortable with the process.

Vaccines have played an important role in eliminating dangerous pathogens which is why rabies shots, for example, are mandatory.

Risk-factors can rise with numerous vaccinations in one visit. However, when vaccinations are spread out over time and administered to a healthy dog, the risks are relatively low for a serious adverse effect.

What You Need to Know About the Bordetella Vaccine for Dogs

The canine bordetella vaccine protects dogs from contracting kennel cough. While kennel cough isn’t particularly dangerous to dogs, it can lead to serious complications much like the flu can in people.

Consider this:

If nobody had their dogs inoculated against kennel cough, the virus would probably run rampant in the canine community.

This would put every dog, particularly very young dogs and senior dogs, at high risk of infection.

Myth #3: Vaccinations are a Money Grab

The reality for big pharmaceutical companies is that vaccinations are an add-on to their inventory of prescription medications.

Yes, companies will make a profit because that’s what companies do. However, your veterinarian is not making a fortune administering vaccines to your dog.

If you’re worried about the cost of the bordetella vaccine, you could visit a low-cost clinic where you might pay anywhere from $10 to $15 for a shot.

That said, your regular veterinarian probably won’t charge a whole lot more for the same thing. It’s okay to call around for quotes if you’re looking to save as much money as possible.

Myth #4: Vaccines Destroy a Dog’s Immune System

This myth extends into all aspects of vaccination protocols around the world. Many people believe that vaccinations ultimately wear the immune system down so that it can’t protect itself against any virus/bacterium. The fact is that’s just not true.

This myth seems to stem from the live-attenuated vaccines where an extremely weakened version of the live virus is injected into the body.

These vaccinations are designed to stimulate the immune system to recognize the virus without actually contracting the virus. Consider it a teaching tool for the immune system.

Vaccines don’t, however, wear out the immune system or compromise it in anyway. Note: This applies to healthy dogs who are administered appropriate vaccinataions by a licensed veterinarian.

Myth #5: Homeopathic Vaccines are Safer

Alternative versions of vaccinations that claim to be safe options are not regulated or tested by governing bodies.

It is possible for someone to use alternative methods of vaccination and maintain a healthy dog. That does not mean the alternative worked.

Medically based vaccinations are not a 100% guarantee against infectious disease. However, evidence has shown that they are the safest and most effective method available to prevent widespread disease in canines.

Nosodes for Dogs

The Greek prefix “noso” means disease, thus indicating the
pathological root of nosodes. This term is also connected with the
Latin word “noxa”, related to noxious or damaging, which implies the
use of noxious materials as a basis for a homeopathic remedy

Journal of
Immunology and Vaccine
Open Science Publications
01 ISSN: 2455-4766

Volume 2, Issue 1 – 2017
© Patel B, et al. 2017

Nosodes are described as inactivated disease that is converted into “a bioenergetic remedy”. Use of nosodes and sarcodes in the treatment of disease conditions is known as biotherapy or immunotherapy or organopathy or homeoprophylaxis.

The question is, are nosodes safe and are they really a good alternative to traditional canine vaccinations? Ultimately, core vaccinations should be administered by a licensed veterinarian using traditional preparations.

When considering nosodes as an alternative to the bordetella vaccine for dogs, it’s good to take a look at the advantages and disadvantages are seen below:

1. Nosodes are easy to administer and are given by mouth.1. Cannot be used as a substitute for the rabies vaccine.
2. Rarely have side-effects2. Has not been proven scientifically.
3. Can be used as a preventative.3. Risk of Herxheimer Reaction.

Please read: What are Nosodes and Do They Do Anything For Your Health?

Here are some highlights from a study published in

Myth #6: Let Your Dog Get the Virus to Build Natural Immunity

There a few flaws to this thinking:

  1. Viruses often change. Their “job” is to infect as many hosts as possible in order to reproduce. Mutations in viruses return again and again until, finally, they break past the dog’s immune system.
  2. If one dog is left vulnerable to infectious disease, there is a greater chance of that disease infecting other dogs and/or humans.
  3. Vaccinations are not necessarily designed to provide 100% immunity. However, with the right antibodies to help fight disease, there’s a far greater chance that your dog will survive serious illness.
  4. Even if the adult dog has a strong, healthy immune system, the chance of chronic disease rises as they grow older. As the dog grows older and the immune system possibly weakens, there’s a risk of serious complications from the development of infectious diseases. Even a common virus like kennel cough can become deadly if it turns into pneumonia.


Myth #7: My Dog Can Get the Bordetella Vaccine When/If Needed.

The bordetella vaccine in dogs is not part of the core-vaccination schedule. For this reason, you can choose not to have it administered to your dog.

It’s important to consider not just the current lifestyle, but future possibilities. People move, change jobs, divorce, separate, etc. Any occurence that changes the family dynamic ultimately changes the dog’s environment in one way or another.

Yes, you could wait to get the bordetella vaccine, but it doesn’t work right away. An intranasal vaccine (through the nose) takes between 3 and 5 days to be effective. The injectable vaccine and take 7 days or longer.

If you’re trying to get your dog into a doggy daycare situation, for example, you’ll probably need paperwork showing the dog’s vaccination history.

Have You Made a Decision Yet?

At the end of the day, non-core bordetella vaccines for dogs are optional. A healthy adult dog with no underlying risk factors will likely survive kennel cough. However, listening to your dog honk-cough, lose sleep, suffer with nasal discharge and general malaise is no fun for you and no fun for your dog. In fact, it’s a little scary.

After reading this post, comparing alternative “nosode vaccines” to traditional medicine, and discussing the options with the veterinarian, you should have a good arsenal to make an informed decision.


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