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Bordetella: Does Your Dog Really Need the Kennel Cough Vaccine?

Your veterinarian, kennel owner, day care provider or groomer says your dog should/must be vaccinated against kennel cough, but you’re trying not to over-vaccinate.

What should you do?

More and more, pet parents are finding another vet, kennel owner, day care provider or groomer — or keeping their dog at home!  Vaccination is a serious medical procedure with significant potential risks.  If that isn’t enough, the vaccine isunlikely to prevent kennel cough. It can even produce kennel-cough like symptoms. The WSAVA Guidelines say, “Transient (3–10 days) coughing, sneezing, or nasal discharge may occur in a small percentage of vaccinates.” It can also cause a serious anaphylactoid reaction. Look it up. You won’t like it.

About kennels, day care providers and groomers: In general, if they have good ventilation and practice good hygiene, kennel cough shouldn’t be an issue. Bordetella is not for dogs playing together in well-ventilated areas — like dog parks or backyards or living rooms.

Think of kennel cough as a canine cold, transmitted as human colds are transmitted — from an infected individual in close contact with another individual with compromised immunity.  Like a cold, it is also considered a mild self-limiting disease.  A veterinarian friend uses an OTC remedy called B & T Cough and Bronchial Syrup to treat the cough.  For small dogs she uses the children’s variety.  See your vet for further treatment information.

If your service provider is afraid your dog will contract kennel cough at their establishment, offer to sign a letter of informed consent saying you’ve been informed of the risk and will waive liability. That should do it.  Should.  It’s really just liability at issue, not your dog’s overall health.

If the person insisting on the Bordetella vaccine is afraid other dogs at their establishment will contract kennel cough from your unvaccinated dog, this person clearly doesn’t trust that thevaccinated dogs actually have immunity. If they don’t believe the vaccine is protective,  why insist that you or anyone else vaccinate?

Note: If you decide to give the vaccine, make sure it is the intranasal form, that is, given as nose drops, not injected.  And give the vaccine at least a week before contact with other dogs, for the sake of both your dog and other dogs.

Don’t take my word for any of this. Read what two vets and a PhD have to say about the Bordetella vaccine:

World-renowned vaccination scientist, Dr. Ronald Schultz, says [emphasis is mine]: “Many animals receive “kennel cough” vaccines that include Bordetella and CPI and/or CAV-2 every 6 to 9 monthswithout evidence that this frequency of vaccination is necessary or beneficial. In contrast, other dogs are never vaccinated for kennel cough and disease is not seen. CPI immunity lasts at least 3 years when given intranasally, and CAV -2 immunity lasts a minimum of 7 years parenterally for CAV-I. These two viruses in combination with Bordetella bronchiseptica are the agents most often associated with kennel cough, however, other factors play an important role in disease (e.g. stress, dust, humidity, molds, mycoplasma, etc.), thus kennel cough is not a vaccine preventable diseasebecause of the complex factors associated with this disease. Furthermore, this is often a mild to moderate self limiting disease. I refer to it as the ‘Canine Cold.’”


From Dr. Eric Barchas, Dogster Vet Blog, “I generally do not recommend kennel cough vaccines unless dogs are staying in a boarding facility that requires them (and even then I don’t truly recommend vaccination — instead, I recommend finding a facility that doesn’t require them).

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19 Responses to Bordetella: Does Your Dog Really Need the Kennel Cough Vaccine?

  1. christina January 20, 2014 at 6:02 PM #

    I work at a boarding kennel facility.
    Over the Christmas period we had over 200 dogs here, in outdoor runs and playing together daily in groups.

    All dogs are required to have a C5 vaccination including kennel cough.

    One dog came in and not long after started coughing. Dozens of dogs ended up going home with kennel cough.
    The vaccine does absolutely nothing.

  2. Cindy January 28, 2013 at 11:14 PM #

    Is it necessary for your dog to get the vaccine just to visit a pet store?

    • marilyn jones February 9, 2013 at 1:47 AM #

      Can i do the vaccine myself and can i catch kennel cough from my dogs

      • Jan Rasmusen March 27, 2013 at 1:04 PM #

        It is given as nose drops, preferably, not a shot. And you can catch KC from the vaccine!

    • Jan Rasmusen March 27, 2013 at 1:03 PM #

      No! The vaccine does little good anyway. Anyway, it is designed for kennel situations, areas with little ventilation and poor cleanliness. You may be required to get it by a groomer if the groomer doesn’t know it is next to worthless. If so, find another groomer.

  3. Nat July 24, 2012 at 2:56 PM #

    My 16 week old pup had her KC done at 8 weeks and 12 weeks and when she was 15 weeks old she came down with KC. My 2 year old has the KC intranasal every 6 months and got the KC from the pup. The vaccine is more of a warm blanket for owners. It does nothing to prevent it in dogs. And Im sorry , the rule for turning away coughing dogs at daycare etc makes no sense. Dogs shed the virus for weeks on end with no symptoms showing and they are as contagious as the coughing dog. Just let them go and play and when they feel like crap keep them home like a human kid. But to not allow coughers when KC is being actively spread by other non symptomatic dogs and dogs recently given the intranasal makes no sense.

  4. Morgan Jarvis April 9, 2012 at 8:49 AM #

    We run a 6000 sq foot, indoor, climate controlled extremely well ventilated facility, built in 2007, with large outdoor pee gravel and K9 Grassed yards. All dogs that visit us, unless they have a note from their veterinarian are required to have all vaccines utd incl KC.

    I have to admit I was a bit confused by reading this article. I am hoping I am reading it incorrectly, maybe someone can help me out with this?

    “About kennels, day care providers and groomers: In general, if they have good ventilation and practice good hygiene, kennel cough shouldn’t be an issue. Bordetella is not for dogs playing together in well-ventilated areas — like dog parks or backyards or living rooms.”

    I find most of the cases of KC that come in through are doors are picked up by the local “Outdoor” dog park. Unfortunately we have to turn them away for a few weeks until the cough subsides.

    So how can it be stated that dogs can not pick the Air borne virus from a dog park?

    • Renee March 25, 2013 at 12:10 PM #

      I agree! We have a dog daycare, where dogs are playing outside most of the day. We clean everyday with bleach, clean clean clean! We require the KC shot, although personally I would rather not but people feel “safer.” Unfortunately, just like kids in daycare, kennel cough rolls through no matter how clean any facility is. It is part of having your dog have an amzing time at daycare, your dog may catch a cold. I am honest with all my clients about this, and wish vets would educate more people on this vaccine, that it is not 100%, and in fact, is worthless.

  5. dee March 24, 2012 at 11:23 PM #

    I have 4 dogs, nine, seven, four and 8 months. One of the 2 older dogs had the vacine and still got kennel cough, so did the one with no vacine, I decided not to vacinate the 2 younger ones, The puppy was in contact with a dog that was just vacinated and then had kennel cough, which she gave to the 4 year old but the other 2 older dogs did not get it, unless it is a severe case shouldn’t we let them build up some antibodies and natural immunity? all bugs don’t need drugs! As for parvo and distemper, get their titers tested and if they need the vacine then do it but why do it if not needed?

  6. Mike March 24, 2012 at 1:44 AM #

    “Vaccination is a serious medical procedure with significant potential risks. ” Vaccination is NOT a serious medical procedure no more so than childhood vaccinations. Every vaccine has potential risks as does all medications. Have you listened to all the side effects vocalized on many TV commercials with respect to lipid lowering drugs, depression drugs etc? Lets not scare people from proven advances that prevent disease. Lets just stop vaccinating all our pets period. Lets just let diseases like parvo, distemper, lepto etc take hold once again in our canine popilations killing untold numbers of pets. Nothing is 100% effective, Also regarding “kennel cough” there is also canine influenza virus H3N8 which is much more serious and should be vaccinated for in high risk populations. The occurence of respiratory signs in dogs receiving bordatella vaccination is very rare. It is highly infectious so why wouldn’t you vaccinate your dog before boarding etc.

  7. Sharon Vollers March 23, 2012 at 12:35 PM #

    As the mom of a dog who was never in a place where bordatella should have been a concern, I was very surprised when my little dog contracted bordatella. He was very very ill before I realized that this was no minor illness that he would “get over”. It was clearly bordatella. I felt horrible, and because he was an older dog, it took a lot for him to get over it. I will NEVER skip bordatella vaccinations on my dogs ever again. I understand that there may well be over immunization of some vaccines in some situations, but bordatella is no minor illness to be overlooked.

    • randa January 19, 2013 at 4:44 PM #

      my pit bull was quarantined for 10 days because somebody came into my yard and he bit them. it was a superficial bite but enough to scare the trespasser .i have be ware of dog signs posted and no trespassing signs.with his stay with our humane society he picked up bordatella i wasent aware.brought him home around my other 2 dogs now they have it.no joke im an asthmatic and i just got out of the hospital yesterday due to breathing difficulty!!! I HAVE IT AS WELL because one of my dogs sneezed in my face (i know that sounds grouse but hes sick) i have that whole whooping cough thing going on and cant breath its terrible.so i know it can be contracted from k9 to human.

      • Dogs Naturally Magazine January 22, 2013 at 7:54 AM #

        Randa, this is interesting. Funny you mention this because kennel cough or Bordetella bronchiseptica is related to the human pathogen Bordetella pertussis which causes whooping cough. Bordetella is zoonotic, especially in immunocompromised people.

  8. Lyne March 22, 2012 at 10:44 AM #

    well if you live in my area I take dogs on raw food and dont ask for kennel cough, and the dogs only need 1 rabies vaccine and 1 DHPP, been doing that for 6 years now, my dogs come in my boarding and are not vaccinated.

    if you put your dogs in a kennel supplement him with vitamie C it will help if he as to be vaccinated, because lots of dogs get the cought after getting vaccinated.
    and the vaccine is only ”good” ofr 4 ot 5 mounts.

    and as always great article

  9. Darlah Potechin March 22, 2012 at 8:25 AM #

    Deb: We used to do the kc vaccine as we do dog shows but you are not protected and it can give your dog symptoms as it did with ours. Kennel cough is a dog cold per se and here I sit with the flu, do not work outside of my home so where did I get it? Reality is I could get it from seeing someone at the mailbox or my son coming home with it but never catching it. It’s the same with your dogs.

    Sometimes we protect ourselves so much that we do not allow our bodies to build up natural immunities that we set ourselves up for something our body can’t fight as we isolate ourselves or our dogs.

    It is important to not only allow our dogs to build up their natural immunities but also to socialize. It’s not enough to simply have another dog at home that they know. Dogs even in a pack can become fearful if taken out of the pack if they only know the pack.

    Socializing to me in the right way is just as important has food for your dog. It’s food for the brain and we all need that!

    • Lyne March 22, 2012 at 10:54 AM #

      yes boarding is a great way to socialize your dogs, you should start when they are puppies, but you need to find a good baording and that is sometimes difficult.

      I say to my clients boarding is a gresat therapy for dogs

  10. Deb Sanford March 22, 2012 at 6:00 AM #

    Last year I had to kennel my dogs for a weekend while I went to my sisters wedding. Both dogs went in for a kennel cough vaccine. I had no problems when they came home. 5 months later I had to kennel them again and when they came home my Rotti coughed once, I didn’t think anything of it. About 2 wks later my 12 year old lab mix started coughing and it got worse. Took him to vets and they diagnosed KC. It was at that time they told me that it wasn’t 100% effective.
    We have struggled all winter long with coughing. I found the B&T cough syrup at my local health food store and now that the weather has warmed the coughing has stopped.

    I will never kennel my dogs again.


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