Bordetella, more commonly known as kennel cough, is an upper respiratory infection that is highly contagious in dogs. The Bordetella vaccine helps protect dogs against this infection by exposing them to the bacteria that causes kennel cough. But an important question for dog owners is whether this vaccine requires one shot or two.
What is Bordetella?
Bordetella bronchiseptica is the main bacterial agent responsible for kennel cough in dogs. It is spread through respiratory secretions and can survive for long periods in the environment. Kennel cough can occur in dogs that are boarded, attend doggie daycare, visit the groomer, go to dog parks, or are in close contact with other dogs. The most recognizable symptom is a persistent, honking cough.
There are two main types of kennel cough vaccines available for dogs – injectable and intranasal. Injectable vaccines contain the killed version of Bordetella bronchiseptica. Intranasal vaccines deliver a modified live version of the bacteria directly to a dog’s nasal passages and airways. This mimics a more natural infection and provides better immunity at the site of infection.
Is the Bordetella Vaccine One or Two Shots?
Whether the Bordetella vaccine is one or two shots depends primarily on the type of vaccine used:
- Injectable killed vaccines – Two doses are required initially, given 2-4 weeks apart. Boosters are recommended annually.
- Intranasal live vaccines – A single dose is needed, with annual boosters.
Most veterinarians today recommend the intranasal drops over injectable vaccines for Bordetella. The intranasal vaccine provides faster immunity, often within 72 hours, and better protection. It is also less stressful for dogs since it does not require an injection. After the first dose, only annual boosters are required to maintain immunity against kennel cough.
When to Give the Bordetella Vaccine
The Bordetella vaccine is recommended for dogs with any lifestyle risk factors for exposure to kennel cough, including:
- Boarding at a kennel or attending doggie daycare
- Visiting dog parks or other areas dogs congregate
- Participating in dog shows, field trials, or other events
- Living in a shelter or rescue environment
- Grooming at a salon or facility
Puppies should receive their first dose of the intranasal Bordetella vaccine as early as 6 weeks of age if they will be entering any of these high-risk situations. For older dogs, the vaccine can be given at any time prior to potential exposure.
Annual boosters are recommended even for dogs at low risk of infection. Kennel cough outbreaks can occur sporadically, and immunity may decline over time. Revaccination provides optimal protection against Bordetella bacteria.
Side Effects of the Bordetella Vaccine
Side effects from the Bordetella vaccine are minimal for most dogs. However, mild symptoms may include:
- Nasal discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
These effects typically last no more than a few days. Severe reactions are rare but may include difficulty breathing, hives, or facial swelling. Contact your veterinarian if any concerning symptoms develop.
Is the Bordetella Vaccine Always Effective?
No vaccine is 100% effective. Even vaccinated dogs have some risk of developing kennel cough if exposed to the Bordetella bacteria. However, the intranasal vaccine is considered around 80% effective for preventing infection.
Vaccinated dogs that contract kennel cough typically have much milder symptoms that resolve faster. The vaccine helps reduce the duration and severity of the illness. It provides robust protection against developing severe pneumonia due to Bordetella infection.
Are Bordetella Boosters Necessary Every Year?
Yes, veterinarians recommend getting the Bordetella vaccine boosters annually. Immunity begins to decline several months after the initial dose. Annual boosters will help ensure your dog has sufficient circulating antibodies against Bordetella bacteria.
Some boarding facilities or dog daycares may not require proof of the Bordetella vaccine annually. But the vaccine should still be boosted yearly for optimal protection. This helps prevent symptomatic illness and also reduces shedding of bacteria to other dogs.
Can Dogs Get Kennel Cough Even if Vaccinated?
Dogs can still contract kennel cough even after vaccination, but symptoms are often less severe. There are a few reasons why the Bordetella vaccine may not completely protect all dogs:
- Other bacteria and viruses can cause kennel cough besides Bordetella, so dogs may get infected with other pathogens the vaccine doesn’t cover.
- The Bordetella bacteria has many different strains. Vaccines target the most common strains but cannot protect against all of them.
- Vaccines don’t work as well in some populations like young puppies, seniors, or immunocompromised dogs.
- The vaccine may not be properly administered or stored.
- Dogs exposed shortly after vaccination may not yet have full immunity established.
But even with limitations, the Bordetella vaccine remains the best method for preventing severe kennel cough infections in dogs. The benefits far outweigh any risks.
How Long Does It Take for Bordetella Vaccine to Work?
The intranasal Bordetella vaccine establishes immunity much faster than injectable options. Dogs develop sufficient levels of antibodies within 72 hours of vaccination, compared to 2 weeks with injectable vaccines.
Maximum immunity is reached 7-10 days after administration of intranasal drops. It’s ideal to vaccinate dogs at least 1-2 weeks before any planned boarding, doggie daycare visits, travel, or other high-risk situations.
With injectable vaccines, two doses are needed 2-4 weeks apart. Dogs should not be considered fully protected until 1-2 weeks after the second dose has been given.
Can a Kennel Still Require Bordetella Even if Recently Vaccinated?
Most kennels require proof of the Bordetella vaccine within the past 6-12 months. Even if your dog received the vaccine fairly recently, the kennel may still require an updated certificate of proof from your veterinarian.
This is because kennels want verification your dog was properly given the intranasal dose. There is also no reliable way for them to confirm exactly when your dog was last vaccinated.
Requiring the Bordetella vaccine helps prevent influx of the bacteria into their facility and protects all boarding dogs. It is typically not worth trying to argue with the kennel policies. Simply plan to get your dog revaccinated within the kennel’s required timeframe.
Is It Bad to Give Bordetella Too Often?
There is no evidence that administering the Bordetella vaccine more frequently than the recommended yearly interval poses any risks or is detrimental to a dog’s health. However, there is likely no added benefit to booster doses given before 12 months.
While not considered unsafe, veterinarians don’t advise dog owners vaccinate against Bordetella more often than annually. This helps reduce unnecessary costs and clinic visits for your dog. There’s also a small risk of side effects with each vaccine administered.
Talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s individual circumstances and when they recommend boostering the Bordetella vaccine based on your dog’s lifestyle and risk factors.
Can Puppies Get the Bordetella Vaccine?
Puppies as young as 6 weeks old can and should receive the Bordetella vaccine if they will be in public areas around other dogs. The earlier puppies are vaccinated, the sooner they develop important immunity against kennel cough.
Young puppies are especially susceptible to developing severe illness from kennel cough infections. Kennels, doggie daycares, and classes may require Bordetella vaccination proof starting at 8-12 weeks of age.
Only the intranasal Bordetella vaccine is approved for use in puppies. Two doses may be administered 3-4 weeks apart in very young puppies, followed by annual boosters. Discuss the best schedule for your puppy with your veterinarian.
Should Dogs with Kennel Cough Get Vaccinated?
The Bordetella vaccine should be avoided in dogs currently showing signs of kennel cough. Otherwise the modified live bacteria may worsen symptoms. Wait until the infection has fully resolved before vaccinating.
Dogs that have recovered from kennel cough should still be vaccinated against Bordetella as directed by your veterinarian. The vaccine helps prevent repeated infections in the future, or with different strains of the bacteria.
However, dogs should be free of any cough or upper respiratory symptoms for at least 2 weeks prior to being vaccinated to avoid perpetuating the illness.
Is There a Bordatella Vaccine Shortage?
Due to manufacturing disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, some veterinary clinics have experienced periodic shortages of the intranasal Bordetella vaccine over the past couple years. However, supply levels have largely stabilized in 2022-2023.
If your veterinary clinic happens to be out of stock of the intranasal vaccine, ask when they expect to have it available again. You can also call around to other local clinics to check availability.
Worse case, you may need to use the injectable form of the vaccine temporarily. But resume use of the intranasal vaccine once supply levels return to normal in your area.
Protecting your dog against kennel cough requires just a single dose of the intranasal Bordetella vaccine, with annual boosters recommended. This fast-acting vaccine provides the most robust and consistent immunity against Bordetella infections compared to injectable options.
Be sure to vaccinate puppies as young as 6 weeks if they will be exposed to environments like kennels, dog parks, daycares, groomers, or shelters where kennel cough easily spreads. Adult dogs should also receive annual boosters of the intranasal vaccine for optimal disease prevention, even if not frequently boarded or around other dogs.
While no vaccine is 100% effective, the Bordetella vaccine significantly reduces the risk of symptomatic, severe kennel cough in dogs and remains the best safeguard against this highly contagious respiratory disease.