[Updated] Three Critical Problems With The Kennel Cough Vaccine (and what you need to do about them)

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I’m willing to bet that …

When your dog’s daycare, training facility or kennel asks for a kennel cough vaccine, you vaccinate your dog, right?

You want to protect your dog (and other dogs) from illness and you trust your vet or daycare provider to have your dog’s best interests at heart.

But before you should give your dog any vaccine, there are questions you should ask:

  • Is the vaccine safe?
  • Is it effective?
  • Is the disease it’s intended to prevent dangerous?

I’m about to tell you some things that will make you reconsider whether the kennel cough vaccine is really the best choice for your dog.

What You Should Know About The Kennel Cough Vaccine

Bordetella, also known as kennel cough, is a vaccine your groomer, boarding kennel, doggie daycare, training facility and vet clinic probably tell you is essential. It’s become a routine requirement for any dog that spends time with other dogs – in other words, nearly all dogs.

It’s surprising a vaccine exists is surprising in itself. Kennel cough is a self limiting disease that’s about as dangerous to your dog as the common cold is to you.

But daycare and boarding facilities worry about it a lot. I’ll get to that part in a bit.

When our children get colds, we keep them at home and give them some chicken soup – that’s just common sense. But if our dogs catch a cold, we’ve been led to think that they’re carrying a dangerous and highly contagious disease.

So we vaccinate our dogs to prevent kennel cough.

But there are three pretty significant problems with this approach.:

Problem 1: The Vaccine Doesn’t Work All That Well

Here’s the reason why the common intranasal kennel cough vaccine isn’t a terribly good idea:

There are at least forty agents that cause bordetella …

But only a couple of these agents are contained in the vaccine.

This makes the bordetella vaccine a complete shot in the dark. In fact, the vaccine is so ineffective that leading veterinary immunologist Dr Ronald Schultz has stated …

“Kennel Cough is not a vaccinatable disease.” Dr Ronald Schultz Click To Tweet

That’s the opinion of the most qualified veterinary immunologist in the world. But despite this, vets still vaccinate a massive number of dogs for this simple ailment every day. And they continue to recommend the vaccine if your dog’s “exposed” to other dogs,

Maybe it’s because they figure the vaccine might work – and because the vaccine is just an intranasal spray, it’s considered pretty safe, right?

Well, that leads us to the next problem …

(Before you hit problem number two, grab our free vaccine guide below. We created this simple, downloadable PDF that you can take with you to the vet to help work out the safest vaccination schedule for your dog. It’s your decision how often or not your pet gets vaccinated, you be the driver!)

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Problem 2: The Vaccine Is Not Safe

Most vaccines these days are modified live vaccines. And that’s a problem.

It’s been shown that the “modified” viruses in human vaccines embed themselves in the genes of the host and can shuffle around and reactivate thirty or more years after vaccination.

Chicken pox is a good example of how this works.

Chicken pox is another common and self limiting disease that we now regularly vaccinate children against. Before, we all just got chicken pox and that prevented us from getting it again. But now, because of mass vaccination, we don’t receive  the natural boost to our immune systems from getting chicken pox. So the result of mass vaccination for chicken pox is a much higher incidence of its evil cousin, shingles, a much more serious and unpleasant, painful disease.

According to Patricia Jordan DVM, bacterial vaccines like bordetella can also lurk in the genetic makeup, waiting to replicate and awaken as a disease that could be a much more dangerous than kennel cough.

Something else your vet may not bother to mention is that the intranasal bordetella vaccine is actually part of a combination shot that also includes a parainfluenza vaccine. It’s always more dangerous to give combination vaccines, and the intranasal vaccine has been known to cause complications like collapsing trachea, irritable trachea and pneumonia.

Vaccination of any sort also elevates histamine, which we all know can promote cancer and chronic inflammation.

But aside from the dangers of the vaccine, here’s another interesting fact …

Problem 3: Somebody Did Some Bad Math

Here’s a little known fact: vaccinated dogs shed the disease into the environment.

Dogs that are vaccinated for kennel cough will shed that disease for up to 7 weeks – and parainfluenza for a week. That means that after your dog’s vaccinated, he can spread bordetella to all the other dogs he comes in contact with.

Doesn’t that seem like a huge problem?

Let’s look at two different daycare scenarios.

Daycare # 1

They have 50 dogs a day. They don’t require the kennel cough vaccine.

One day a dog walks in with kennel cough. He’s sneezing, he’s hacking and the smart daycare provider will kindly isolate him for the day and then ask his owners to keep him home for the next few days.

A few other dogs in the daycare might catch his kennel cough. So this is why most daycare facilities insist you vaccinate your dog. Makes sense, right?

Well, not exactly. Let’s consider what would happen if all the dogs were vaccinated.

Daycare # 2

This daycare also has 50 dogs a day … but they require the kennel cough vaccine.

If the every dog gets the vaccine yearly (though it’s often given twice a year), that’s 50 dogs a year coming in shedding the kennel cough – and not just for a few days, but for as long as 7 weeks! And they’re shedding influenza too.

And the worst part is …  the daycare doesn’t know which dog is spreading the disease so they can’t ask him to stay home. He’s mingling with the other dogs and spreading bordetella all over the joint.

And because the vaccine is so ineffective, a lot of other dogs will catch it.

Does kennel cough vaccination still sound like a good idea to you?

So the next time your vet, daycare, boarding or training facility demands that you vaccinate your dog for kennel cough …. you’ll probably want to consider some different options.

Intelligent Alternatives

  • First, tell the facility that instead of vaccination, you’ll sign a waiver stating that you’re 100% responsible if your dog happens to catch kennel cough while at their facility. If they resist and you want to press them, ask them: If the vaccine works and all the other dogs are vaccinated, why is my unvaccinated dog a problem?
  • An even better option is to support the fine people who don’t make you do something that could harm your dog. Do your legwork and find the great facilities that don’t require the kennel cough vaccine. Reward them for taking extra special care of your dog by giving them your business!
  • If you can’t find a facility in your area who understands that kennel cough vaccination is a bad idea, then look for a dog trainer, groomer, sitter or walker to come to your home instead.

And be sure to share this information with your dog-owning friends.

When more dog owners demand better from these dog businesses, then we’ll force them to change their dangerous and unwise policies on kennel cough.

Don’t make excuses for this one. Put your dog’s health first right now …

… and not after your dog suffers an adverse reaction from the kennel cough vaccine.

If you want help talking to your vet about the kennel cough vaccine, or any vaccine for that matter, grab our free Vaccine Guide. Download it, print it and bring it with you to the vet. This guide will help you come to a healthier vaccination schedule for your dog. Enter your email below and we’ll send this guide right to your inbox! …

About the Author Dana Scott

Dana Scott is Editor In Chief for Dogs Naturally Magazine. She also breeds Labrador Retrievers under the Fallriver prefix and has been a raw feeding, natural rearing breeder since the 90's. She is an advocate for natural health care for dogs and people and works tirelessly to educate pet owners so they can influence veterinary medicine and change current vaccine, food and preventive health practices. Visit Dana's Labradors at Fallriver Labs