What is Bordetella in Dogs?

If you have ever boarded your dog at a kennel or taken them to a dog park, you may have heard of Bordetella, a common bacterial infection that causes respiratory disease in dogs. But what is bordetella in dogs exactly, and how can you prevent and treat it? Here is everything you need to know about this contagious condition.

What Causes Bordetella in Dogs?

Bordetella is the name of a genus of bacteria that includes several species that can infect animals and humans. The most common one that affects dogs is Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is also known as kennel cough. This is because the bacteria can easily spread in places where many dogs are in close contact, such as kennels, dog parks, grooming salons, or veterinary clinics. Bordetella bronchiseptica can infect the respiratory tract of dogs and cause inflammation of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (airways). This can lead to coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, and sometimes fever or loss of appetite. The infection can also make dogs more susceptible to secondary infections by other bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

kennel cough in dog

Recognizing Kennel Cough in Your Dog

While most cases of Bordetella are mild and resolve on their own, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and potential complications. Here’s what to watch out for:
Common Symptoms:

Symptoms in Severe Cases:

While less common, Bordetella can cause more serious symptoms, especially in puppies, older dogs, or dogs with weakened immune systems. These include:

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, especially if they are accompanied by lethargy, fever, or loss of appetite, consult your veterinarian
promptly for diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Early intervention can help ensure a full recovery and prevent complications.0

How is Bordetella Transmitted?

Bordetella can be transmitted from dog to dog through direct contact, such as licking, biting, or sniffing, or through indirect contact, such as sharing food, water, toys, or bedding. The bacteria can also be spread through the air by coughing or sneezing. Some dogs may carry the bacteria without showing any symptoms, but they can still infect other dogs. This is why it is important to keep your dog up to date with their vaccinations and check with your veterinarian before exposing them to other dogs.

How is Bordetella Diagnosed?

Common Symptoms of Kennel Cough

If you notice that your dog has a persistent cough, especially after being in contact with other dogs, you should take them to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. Your veterinarian may perform a physical examination, listen to your dog’s lungs, and take a swab or a culture from their throat or nose to test for the presence of bordetella or other pathogens.

How is Bordetella Treated?

Most cases of bordetella are mild and self-limiting, meaning that they will resolve on their own without any specific treatment. However, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection faster and prevent complications. They may also recommend cough suppressants, anti-inflammatories, or bronchodilators to ease your dog’s symptoms and make them more comfortable. You should also keep your dog isolated from other dogs until they are fully recovered, which may take up to three weeks. You should also provide them with plenty of fresh water, a nutritious diet, and a warm and quiet place to rest. Avoid using collars or harnesses that may irritate their throat, and use a humidifier or a vaporizer to moisten the air and soothe their breathing.

Bordetella in Dogs

How Can Bordetella be Prevented?

The best way to prevent bordetella in dogs is to vaccinate them regularly. There are different types of vaccines available, such as injectable, intranasal, or oral, and they may protect against bordetella alone or in combination with other respiratory pathogens. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best option for your dog, depending on their age, health, and lifestyle. You should also avoid exposing your dog to other dogs that may be sick or unvaccinated, especially in crowded or poorly ventilated environments. If you plan to board your dog at a kennel or take them to a groomer, make sure that they require proof of vaccination and follow strict hygiene protocols. You should also clean and disinfect your dog’s belongings regularly and wash your hands after handling them.

Consulting Your Veterinarian for the Best Bordetella Vaccination Schedule

While the Bordetella vaccine is a crucial tool in preventing kennel cough, it's not a "one-size-fits-all" solution. Different factors can influence the ideal vaccination schedule for your dog, and consulting your veterinarian is key to maximizing protection.

Here's why involving your vet is essential:

By consulting your veterinarian, you can create a personalized Bordetella vaccination plan that provides optimal protection for your furry friend without unnecessary doses. Remember, prevention is key when it comes to Bordetella, and your vet is the best resource to ensure your dog stays healthy and happy.


Bordetella is a common and contagious bacterial infection that causes respiratory disease in dogs. It can be easily prevented with vaccination and good hygiene practices. If your dog shows signs of bordetella, such as coughing, sneezing, or nasal discharge, you should take them to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. With proper care, most dogs recover from bordetella without any complications.


What is Bordetella in dogs?

Bordetella is a genus of bacteria, with Bordetella bronchiseptica being the most common species causing bordetella, also known as kennel cough, in dogs. This bacterial infection affects the respiratory tract, causing coughing, sneezing, and other symptoms.

How does my dog get Bordetella?

Bordetella is highly contagious and can spread through: ● Direct contact: Licking, biting, or sniffing other infected dogs. ● Indirect contact: Sharing food, water, toys, or bedding with infected dogs. ● Airborne transmission: Coughing or sneezing of infected dogs

Can Bordetella be prevented?

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent Bordetella. Consult your veterinarian to determine the best vaccination schedule for your dog based on their age, health, and lifestyle.

What are the symptoms of Bordetella in dogs?

Most common symptoms include: ● Dry, hacking cough: Often described as "honking." ● Retching: May sound like coughing up something, but nothing comes up. ● Sneezing: Frequent sneezing can accompany the cough. ● Watery nasal discharge: A runny nose may also be present.

Can Bordetella be serious?

While most cases are mild and resolve on their own, severe cases can occur in puppies, older dogs, or dogs with weakened immune systems. These might include: ● Lethargy ● Fever ● Loss of appetite ● Pneumonia (rare)

How is Bordetella diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will conduct a physical exam, listen to your dog's lungs, and may take a swab from their nose or throat to test for Bordetella and other pathogens.
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