Evaluation Discussion on the Bordetella Vaccine

It seems like sharing an opinion about vaccines these days is like talking about politics or religion… with your in-laws… on the first day of a week-long visit.dog kennel cough vaccine

Bad idea.

Yet here I am, starting a discussion. Only it’s about the Bordetella vaccine for dogs, and while there are two very different opinions out there, there are also some key facts with which both sides agree. Imagine that.

Let’s begin with a few agreeable basics

Bordetella is actually a surname for a whole family of bacteria. Bordetella pertussis, para pertussis, and bronchiseptica join together to share phlegm and incessant coughing wherever they go. They also enjoy interspecies irritation… pertussis and para pertussis translate to humans as Whooping Cough and bronchiseptica and is better known as the popular kennel cough (you may also know of Bordetella as the canine cold). It too can be transmitted to people, diagnosed as B. bronchiseptica. (it’s harder to say than Kennel Cough, but apparently, makes us feel better). There is some dispute about the frequency and conditions surrounding dog/human transfers – yet there is no dispute that it can and does happen.

Kennel Cough (or bordetella) is incredibly contagious and is compared to the common cold in popularity and severity. The good news…  everyone agrees that it is more of a nuisance than a scary condition – though the hacking, choking noises it causes can be alarming. It is referred to as a self-limiting disease that does not require treatment – though very young or very old dogs may develop compound conditions when exposed and may then require additional attention.

It’s a big fan of hanging out at popular places like the vet’s office, the dog park and – you guessed it – dog kennels. Its popularity is what makes it a great contestant for a vaccine – and so indeed there is… that’s right, Bordetella Vaccine.  One that’s almost as popular as Kennel Cough itself. It’s a required vaccine for any dog looking for lodging and it’s a vaccine most vets recommended for every dog – every six months or as an annual booster.

Now for the shared facts about the kennel cough vaccine itself:

  • It comes as a shot or nasal treatment
  • It purportedly lasts six months
  • It is only effective for up to 70% of dogs
  • It can actually cause the symptoms of Kennel Cough (though this is not considered a normal reaction to the vaccine, it is not infrequent)

Now for our ‘two cents’ – you knew it was coming.

Bordetella vaccineMy simple question is this: Why would I add another vaccine to the long list of vaccines if there is even a small chance the vaccine would cause the very condition it intends to avoid. It doesn’t make sense, especially if there is no way to know if it would even be effective for my dog in the first place?

It’s also worth noting (again, in my opinion), that much like the popular flu vaccine we humans enjoy, it can only attempt to be effective in immunizing specific strains. There are 40+ strains of Kennel Cough (ie. Canine cold, ie. Bordetella), and the Bordetella Vaccine only offers exposure to 10-14 strains. Who wants to explore the mathematical probabilities on this one?


Me neither.

Here I will offer a short comparison situation: I formerly worked for a local news station – every year, like clockwork, they urged, encouraged and repeatedly reminded the community and all employees to go get our flu shots. I know of only one other co-worker who declined the encouragement and yet every year, like clockwork, the rest of the news staff started dropping like flies.

Except me and my needle-phobic friend.

I actually considered getting the vaccine one year – just to get a few days off like the rest of my co-workers.

My point? I was more immune to the flu than anyone that got the stick – or the nasal treatment. Why? Likely because I already got the flu – many, many years ago. And, make no mistake – it was a doozy. I’ll save you the details, but that flu does something amazing for me. My doozy flu (whatever its strain) fights off the flu for me every year since I enjoyed it – naturally.

In the pursuit of transparency, I admit to being a believer in the power of our amazing bodies – ours and all creatures. I prefer garlic to antibiotics and a nutritious diet without the latest wonder pills. I also can’t even remember the last time I filled a prescription of any kind.

Let my bias be clear – I want the same for my fur babies. If something isn’t life threatening, I will exhaust all natural routes before heading to the vet to acquire a quick fix and a big bill.

The bottom line is this: whether you chose the Bordetella Vaccine or not, it is not the end of the world. And it’s certainly no reason to jeopardize your relationship with the in-laws.

Products Recommended for Kennel Cough Challenges in Dogs