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Can a Dog Have a Reaction to the Bordetella Vaccine?

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 West Chester 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?

You may recognize Bordetella, or kennel cough, as a commonly transmitted upper respiratory infection. And, just as likely if you've brought your dog to a daycare, boarding facility or group obedience classes, you will have heard the question "is your dog vaccinated against Kennel Cough?" Diseases like Bordetella, parvovirus, rabies hepatitis and more can cause serious symptoms and may even be fatal in dogs. Vaccines like the Bordetella vaccination, prevent these diseases from ever developing in your pup in the first place, preserving their health. 

How and when is the Bordetella vaccine administered?

This vaccination comes in two forms, an intranasal spray that your vet will administer in to your dog's nose, and an injection. Both are comparably effective. The injectable Bordetella vaccine isn't suitable for dogs younger than 8 weeks, but the nasal spray version can be administered to dogs as young as 6 weeks old. 

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

With any vaccine, mild adverse reactions are not only possible but to be expected. It may be somewhat upsetting to see your pet have a reaction to a vaccine, but it's important to keep in mind that these reactions are generally very mild and quite short-lived. Knowing what to keep an eye out for in terms of vaccine reactions and what to do if your pup starts displaying more severe symptoms can help make the process of receiving a Bordetella vaccination less stressful for your pup and for you!


The most common reaction a dog will have to receiving the Bordetella vaccine is a feeling of malaise, lethargy or discomfort, often accompanied by a very mild fever. Many people would describe this feeling as "off." This reaction is the immune system of your dog working to respond to the vaccine appropriately. These symptoms are quite normal and should only last one or two days. If your dog isn't back to their normal levels of energy after a couple of days, contact your vet.

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 said, any time that the skin is punctured there is a chance of infection. Be sure to keep an eye on the site where the injection was given. Look for signs of swelling, redness, discharge and pain. If left untreated, infected areas may lead to more serious conditions. 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 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. 

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 reactions to vaccinations increases somewhat when multiple vaccinations are given at one time. This can be particularly true in smaller dogs. To help reduce the risk of reactions, your vet may suggest getting your dog's Bordetella vaccine separated out from any other vaccinations they need over the course of several days.

To learn more about the vaccination and preventative healthcare services West Chester Veterinary Medical Center offers for your dog, contact our West Chester vets today to book a consultation. 

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