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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Expert Advice October 2016 Issue

Dear Doctor - One Bordetella shot too many?

Jack Vierling of Jacksonville, Florida, is worried that his four dogs are being asked to have too many shots for the disease commonly known as kennel cough.

Q We have four senior Boxers: one 9-year-old male, one 10-year-old female, and two littermates age 12. They are up to date on their Bordetella shots and all other required vaccinations as of eight months ago. However, the boarding facility we use regularly recently started a new policy that boarders must have had their Bordetella shots within the last six months to be allowed to stay there.

Our concern is this: if the annual shot contains sufficient medicine to last a full year, would receiving the same annual shot with a full dose of vaccine twice a year be too strong for these seniors?

Would appreciate your response. We are regular subscribers to Tufts Your Dog and are enlightened with each article. We share the info within our family.
Jack Vierling
Jacksonville, Florida

Dear Mr. Vierling,
A Kennels and other boarding facilities are naturally very concerned about Bordetella, a type of bacteria that causes an illness sometimes referred to in the vernacular as kennel cough. That’s because the offending bacteria are airborne and therefore very contagious. The last thing a boarding facility needs is multiple dogs catching the disease and hurting the business’s reputation, or facing pressure to accept responsibility for the problem. It’s the reason so many boarding places are careful to make sure dog owners have proof of vaccination against Bordetella (making kennels among the least likely places a dog will come down with “kennel cough”).

As to your concern about whether it’s safe to have the vaccine administered every six months, the answer is yes, says Tufts small animal veterinary internist Michael Stone, DVM, DAVCIM, who specializes in infectious diseases. The available vaccines are very safe, and revaccination every six months would not be expected to cause health concerns for dogs of any age, even seniors. “I’m not concerned about twice yearly Bordetella vaccinations from a health standpoint,” Dr. Stone says.

A more difficult question to answer is whether twice-yearly vaccination is more effective than once yearly. To Dr. Stone’s knowledge, there have been no studies comparing the two vaccination schedules. He says, however, that licensing regulations are fairly strict, and if the vaccine is licensed for one year, protection is probably adequate. Whether more is better in this case remains an unknown.

“You might ask on what basis your kennel is requiring twice yearly vaccination,” Dr. Stone says, but adds, “I bet the only answer you’ll receive is, ‘because it protects better.’” That is, they won’t have an evidence-based answer, but because kenneling a dog is optional, kennel owners have the right to refuse admission to dogs based on this issue.

It should be noted that for adult dogs like yours, kennel cough, or bordetellosis, is a nuisance but not really dangerous. Affected patients develop a pronounced cough, but unless complications develop they act and eat just fine. And treatment with an antibiotic often brings prompt relief of symptoms, Dr. Stone says. In fact, because of the lack of severe illness caused by Bordetella, routine vaccination of all dogs is considered optional, or in veterinary terms, “non-core,” he explains. Only those who board their dogs tend to end up having to vaccinate them to prevent this problem.

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