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Can a Dog Have a Reaction to the Bordetella Vaccine?

Can a Dog Have a Reaction to the Bordetella Vaccine?

While the benefits of vaccinating your dog will nearly always outweigh any risks of reactions they may have, it is possible that pups have adverse reactions to the Bordetella—or Kennel Cough—vaccine. Here, our Alpharetta veterinary team provides some guidance on common reactions to the Bordetella vaccine in dogs and what to do if your pooch has a reaction. 

Why should I get my dog vaccinated against Bordetella?

Your may recognize the name of Bordetella, or kennel cough, as a commonly transmitted upper respiratory infection. And you have probably also been asked whether your dog is vaccinated against this illness if you've ever brought your pup into a boarding facility or obedience class. Diseases like rabies, hepatitis, parvovirus, Bordetella and more can be fatal to dogs unless prevented with vaccinations such as the Bordetella vaccine.

How and when is the Bordetella vaccine administered?

This vaccine comes in two forms, an intranasal spray that our vets will administer inside your dog's nose and an injection. Both are about equally effective. The injectable Bordetella vaccine isn't appropriate for dogs younger than 8 weeks, but the nasal spray can be used on dogs as young as 6 weeks old!

What are the most common reactions to the Bordetella vaccine in dogs?

As with any vaccination, adverse reactions are not only possible, but to be expected to some degree. It may be a bit upsetting to see that your pet has a reaction to a shot, but it's important to remember that these reactions are generally quite mild and short-lived. Knowing what you should keep an eye out for in terms of vaccine reactions and what to do if your dog starts showing more severe symptoms may help make the process of receiving the Bordetella vaccine far less anxiety-inducing, both for you and your pet. 


One of the most common reactions a dog may have to the bordetella vaccine is feeling uncomfortable or lethargic. This is often accompanied by a very mild fever. To humans, this would generally be described as feeling "off." This is the reaction of the immune system of your dog working to respond appropriately to the vaccine. These symptoms are actually quite normal and should only last a day or two. If your dog isn't feeling and acting like their normal selves after a few days, contact your vet as soon as possible.

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. 

That being said, any time your dog's skin is punctured, there is a chance they will get infected. Keep an eye on their site where the injection was administered. Look for signs of swelling, discharge, pain or redness. If left untreated, some infected areas may cause more serious body-wide conditions or illnesses. If you notice the area becoming increasingly red or showing any of the symptoms listed above, contact your vet.

Sneezing & Cold Like Symptoms

This reaction can be quite common if your dog received their Bordetella vaccine as a nasal spray. This reaction encompasses a number of symptoms that appear much like a cold, including coughing, sneezing and a runny nose. Most dogs recover from these symptoms within a day or two. If your dog is showing more severe symptoms or does not recover within a couple of days, it's time to call the vet.

Serious Reactions to Vaccinations

Most reactions associated with this vaccine are both quite mild and short-term. In some cases, more severe reactions may occur and will require immediate medical attention. 

The most common of these exceedingly rare reactions is anaphylaxis. This is a severe allergic reaction that can be characterized by swelling in the face, hives, vomiting, issues breathing, diarrhea and itchiness in your dog. This reaction typically occurs within a few minutes or hours of your dog receiving a vaccine but may take up to 48 hours to appear. If your dog is showing any of the symptoms of anaphylaxis after receiving the Bordetella vaccine, contact your emergency veterinarian as soon as possible.

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. 

The risk of your dog's reaction to vaccinations may increase a bit when multiple vaccinations are administered at one time. This is particularly true in smaller dogs. In order to help reduce the risk of reactions in your pup, your vet may suggest that you have your dog's Bordetella shot administered separately from other vaccinations that they may need over the course of several days.

If you would like to learn more about the vaccination and preventive healthcare services offered at Loving Hands Animal Clinic & Pet Resort, contact our veterinary team today to book your next appointment.

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Loving Hands Animal Clinic & Pet Resort is always accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Alpharetta companion animals. Get in touch today to book an appointment.

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