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

kennel cough vaccine dogs
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 is unlikely 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 the vaccinated 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 months without 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 disease because 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.’”

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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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