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Can a dog have a reaction to the bordetella vaccine?

The benefits of vaccinating your dog nearly always outweigh any risk of reactions they might have to those vaccines. For dog illnesses like Bordetella—or Kennel Cough—there are some possible reactions your dog may have to their appropriate vaccinations. Here, our Rabun County vets provide some guidance on the common reactions to the Bordetella vaccine in dogs as well as what to do if your dog has a serious reaction.

Why should I get my dog vaccinated against Bordetella?

Kennel cough, also known as Bordetella, is a typically transmitted upper respiratory infection. Additionally, it's very likely that if you've taken your dog to a daycare, boarding house, or group obedience class, someone will ask, "Is your dog vaccinated against kennel cough?" Infections in dogs that can result in serious symptoms or even death include Bordetella, parvovirus, rabies, hepatitis, and more. The health of your pup is preserved by vaccinations like the Bordetella shot, which stops these illnesses from ever manifesting in the first place.

How and when is the Bordetella vaccine administered?

Both an injection and an intranasal spray are available for this pet vaccination, which your veterinarian will administer to your dog's nose. Both are equally efficient. While the nasal spray version of the Bordetella vaccine can be given to dogs as young as 6 weeks old, the injectable version is only suitable for dogs older than 8 weeks.

If you're wondering how often a dog needs a bordetella shot, it is usually every 6 months to a year. 

What are the most common side effects of the Bordetella vaccine in dogs?

Mild negative side effects from vaccinations are not only possible but also typical in dogs. Although it may be upsetting to see your pet react to vaccination, it's important to remember that most of these reactions are mild and relatively transient. It can be less stressful for both you and your dog to receive a Bordetella vaccination if you know what to look out for in terms of vaccine reactions and what to do if your pup starts exhibiting more severe symptoms.


The most typical side effect of the Bordetella vaccine for dogs is a feeling of malaise, lethargy, or discomfort, which is frequently accompanied by a very mild fever. This sensation is frequently referred to as "off." Your dog's immune system is responding appropriately to the vaccine through this reaction. These symptoms should only last one or two days and are perfectly normal. After a few days, if your dog's energy level has not returned to normal, call your veterinarian.

Lumps & Bumps

If your dog receives the injectable form of the Bordetella vaccine, lumps and bumps can occur, especially around the injection site. A small, firm bump may develop, as well as some tenderness and stiffness in the area. These bumps are the result of your dog's immune system rushing in to fight irritation at the injection site. 

However, there is a risk of infection whenever the skin is pierced. Watch the area where the injection was administered carefully. Keep an eye out for symptoms of pain, redness, discharge, and swelling. Infected areas may result in more severe conditions if untreated. Contact your veterinarian if you see the area growing redder or exhibiting any of the symptoms mentioned above.

Sneezing & Cold-Like Symptoms

If your dog received the Bordetella vaccine as a nasal spray, this reaction may occur frequently. Following the bordetella vaccination, your dog may exhibit a number of symptoms that resemble a cold, such as coughing, sneezing, and runny nose. Most dogs get better in a day or two from these symptoms. It's time to call the vet if your dog exhibits more severe symptoms or does not get better within a few days. 

Serious Reactions to Vaccinations

Most of the reactions associated with vaccinations are both mild and quite short-term. In some rare cases, more severe reactions may occur, however, and will require immediate medical attention. 

Anaphylaxis is the most frequent of these incredibly uncommon reactions. This is a severe allergic reaction that can manifest in your dog as facial swelling, hives, vomiting, breathing difficulties, diarrhea, and itching. This reaction usually appears shortly after your dog receives a vaccination, but it could take up to 48 hours to manifest. After receiving the Bordetella vaccine, if your dog displays any anaphylaxis symptoms, call your emergency veterinarian right away.

Can I prevent my dog from having a reaction to the Bordetella vaccine? 

Vaccines help to protect your pup's long-term health and well-being, preventing diseases from ever arising in the first place. And the risk of your canine companion having a serious adverse reaction to vaccination is quite low. 

All of that being said, if your dog has previously had a reaction to a vaccine, be that for Bordetella or a different disease, always inform your vet ahead of time. They may advise you to skip a certain vaccine in the future to mitigate risks—especially for an optional vaccine like Bordetella. 

When multiple vaccinations are administered at once, there is a slight increase in the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations. Smaller dogs may be especially susceptible to this. Your veterinarian might advise administering your dog's Bordetella vaccine separately from any other required vaccinations over the course of several days to help lower the risk of reactions.

To learn more about the vaccination and preventative healthcare services Rabun Animal Hospital offers for your dog, contact our Rabun County vets today to book a consultation. 

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Rabun Animal Hospital is currently accepting new patients! Our wonderful veterinarians are dedicated to the health and happiness of Rabun County dogs, cats, and exotic pets. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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