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Why is My Dog Coughing After the Bordetella Vaccine?

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A dog coughing after the bordetella vaccine may have you wondering about bordetella vaccine side effects in dogs. While vaccines help prevent disease, at times they may cause an exaggerated response causing several symptoms in affected dogs. If your dog develops side effects (such as vomiting, facial swelling) after being given the bordetella vaccine, it's important to notify your vet at once as this may be a vaccine reaction. Your vet will note this on your dog's medical file so that precautions may be taken next time he needs a booster and to prevent any future vaccine reactions. A dog coughing after the bordetella vaccine may be due though to other reasons.

dog coughing after the bordetella vaccine

Dog Coughing After the Bordetella Vaccine

It may sound ironic, but at times, the bordetella vaccine can cause coughing as a side effect which is what you were vaccinating your dog against in the first place! This often happens when the dog is given the intranasal bordetella vaccine which is squirted up the dog's nostril.

The intranasal bordetella vaccine offers the advantage of providing faster protection compared to the injectable form. On top of that, the intranasal bordetella vaccine is directed right to the dog's upper airway which is where kennel cough originates.

However, the intranasal bordetella vaccine has also one major flaw, and that is causing side effects such as coughing, sneezing, and even fever in dogs at times.

Generally, the coughing starts 1 to 2 days after the intranasal kennel cough vaccine is given. This "side effect" occurs as a result of the dog's body making protective antibodies, however, the good news is that the coughing is mild and generally clears up within a few days, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona.

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The incidence of a dog developing side effects from the intranasal bordetella vaccination is higher for dogs receiving it for the first time. This vaccine is a modified live vaccine, and therefore it can grow in the dog's nasal cavity causing symptoms, explains veterinarian Dr. BJ Hughes. The symptoms of this mild "vaccine-induced version of of canine kennel cough" are generally short-lived, lasting no more than 3 to 4 days.

"The vaccine strain will grow and cause a minor infection -- which is how it gives protection. It stimulates the immune system with a mild infection."~Dr. BJ Hughes. 

 Exposure Without Coverage

dog got bit by a raccoon

At times though, it may happen that a dog coughing after the bordetella vaccine is actually really suffering from the disease. This may happen when the dog is exposed to the disease before or right after the vaccine was given because disease coverage or complete coverage was not there.

It's important to consider that the bordetella vaccine doesn't provide coverage as soon as it is given. It may take several days for it to be effective, and the time frame varies based on the type of vaccine given.

Generally, in the case of the intranasal vaccine, it can take as little 4 days for it generate a solid immune response, explains veterinarian Dr. Wendy C. Brooks.

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For the injectable vaccine instead it must be given at least 2 weeks prior to be boarded for maximum protection, points out veterinarian Dr. Chris. 

Parvo is part of the five in one vaccine for dogs

Parvo is part of the five in one vaccine for dogs

A Strain Not Covered 

Another possibility is that your dog contracted kennel cough after the vaccine because the vaccine didn't cover a particular strain. Kennel cough (the correct technical name is now Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease CIRD) can be caused by a variety of bacteria and viruses and the kennel cough vaccine only covers a few of time.

Here are some examples of several pathogens that can cause kennel cough in dogs. Among viruses, parainfluenza virus, adenovirus canine respiratory coronavirus, canine herpesvirus, canine distemper virus and canine influenza virus.

Other pathogens include bordetella bronchiseptica (probably one of the more common pathogens), mycoplasma spp. and streptococcus zooepidemicus. Most likely, new pathogens may continue to appear.

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No bordetella vaccine can cover all of the above potential pathogens, and therefore most vaccines only provide partial protection at best. For instance, the intranasal Bronchi-Shield III protects only against three pathogens, parainfluenza, adenovirus-2 and bordetella bronchiseptica.

"Just as a human can get a flu shot and still get a cold, it is possible for dogs to get the “kennel cough” vaccine and still end up with a cough from one of any number of other pathogens. "~Woodland Veterinary Hospital

The Bottom Line 

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As seen, a dog coughing after the bordetella vaccine should be thoroughly evaluated. It could be your dog is just having an immune reaction to the intranasal vaccine, or your dog actually caught kennel cough because of a strain not covered or because the dog was exposed before the vaccine provided coverage.

In some cases, it can also be that the dog coughing after the bordetella vaccine is only just a coincidence as there may be other causes of coughing at play. For instance, in an old dog coughing after the bordetella vaccine, the vet may want to rule out serious underlying problems common in elderly dogs such as heart problems or even cancer.

The bottom line is therefore that if your dog is coughing after the bordetella vaccine, most likely it's just an immune response, but if it persists, it can be your dog has actually caught an upper respiratory disease or may hanve an underlying condition that causes the cough. Consult with your vet for proper evaluation.

"A cough can be a sign of heart disease starting to deteriorate, and sometimes this cough can sound like kennel cough, although they can generally be told apart on exam and by listening with a stethoscope. "~Dr. Jen, veterinary Surgeon and acupuncturist

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