What Exactly Is The Bordetella Vaccine?

Posted by Christy Caplan

Commonly known as Bordetella or kennel cough, canine infectious tracheobronchitisis is a highly- contagious bacterial infection.

Dogs who have contracted kennel cough develop a persistent, dry cough, which sounds as if they are trying to clear their throat.

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Aside from the unpleasant cough, dogs with kennel cough eat, drink, and play normally. However, increased levels of exercise or excitement can make the cough worse and the infection makes dogs more susceptible to secondary infections.

As this infection is highly contagious between dogs, the number of cases rise in various regions every year.

What is Bordetella?

The American Kennel Club (AKC) tells us that the Bordetella vaccine is a "non-core vaccine that is given to dogs that are frequently exposed to other dogs in boarding facilities or social settings."

"Canine facilities, such as dog daycare centers, boarding kennels, shows, dog parks, and training classes often require dogs to have the vaccine. This is because Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common bacterial agent responsible for kennel cough in dogs."

What is kennel cough?

Merck Veterinary Manual offers this definition of kennel cough:

"Tracheobronchitis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the trachea and bronchial airways; it may be primary or secondary depending on the etiologic agent... Canine infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) is often secondary to a viral infection of the respiratory system."

The Bordetella vaccination is especially important for puppies and senior adult dogs.

"It is a mild, self-limiting disease but may progress to fatal bronchopneumonia in puppies or to chronic bronchitis in debilitated adult or aged dogs. The illness spreads rapidly among susceptible dogs housed in close confinement (eg, veterinary hospitals or kennels)."

Side effects and symptoms of kennel cough may include a runny nose, sneezing, and nasal discharge. Hearing a "honking cough" is a key distinction when deciding if in fact your dog has kennel cough, as symptoms look a lot like respiratory illness. If you suspect your dog has any type of upper respiratory infection, you should take your dog to the vet.

Other vaccinations to consider are distemper, parvo and canine influenza.

Is the vaccine necessary?

Kennel cough is highly contagious!

If your dog visits dog parks, boarding facilities, dog daycare, or attends training classes, he's certainly at risk for contracting kennel cough, as AKC explains:

"It's common for these facilities to require dogs to come with proof of the Bordetella vaccination. If your dog stays in the house and is rarely around other dogs, talk to your veterinarian about whether or not she believes your dog is at risk of contracting kennel cough."

Dog owners need to determine with their DVM if this kennel cough vaccine should be an essential or core vaccine for their pets. Many infected dogs can be infected at doggy daycare or a groomer.

Currently, there are three different types of Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccines licensed in the United States for use in dogs: a killed injectable vaccine, a live attenuated vaccine for intranasal administration, and most recently, a live attenuated vaccine to be given orally. You can talk to your vet about whether the intranasal vaccine or oral vaccine is appropriate for your pets.

Has your dog ever had a terrible cough? Please let us know in the comments. 

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What Exactly Is The Bordetella Vaccine?