Q&A about the kennel cough vaccine

Author: Annette Kriller         Publish date: 18.08.13 22:00

About kennel cough

To my surprise there have been some concerns and worries about the kennel cough vaccine amongst some mushers. I would like to answer some of these questions and concerns, hoping to clarify the reasoning behind it and eliminating the doubts about it.

The vaccination against kennel cough - including the Bordetella bronchoseptica part – is available and extensively used since many years not only in Europe, but worldwide with great success. Races like the Iditarod, the Yukon Quest or the Rocky Mountain Stage Stop Race have long ago made the kennel cough vaccination mandatory - decreasing the incidence of Pneumonia dramatically. As there seems to be a better immunity a short interval after the vaccination, in these races it is mandatory to give the Bordetella vaccination no sooner than 4 months before the race (and no later than 3 weeks before).  Therefore I still recommend to vaccinate sometime in the fall in order to obtain optimum immunity for the Femundløpet.

What’s the difference between the intranasal BpPi/ KC vaccine and other vaccines including Pi?
Pi is a regular Injectable vaccination which provides protection against Parainfluenza whereas KC is an intranasal vaccine which induces a local immune response against both, Parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchoseptica.

What kind of protection can be expected after a vaccination with BpPi / KC?
The vaccination reduces the clinical symptoms of Parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchoseptica and Studies (MSD, available upon request) show a reduced shedding of both, virus and bacteria (in case of infection).

How quickly can I expect a protection?
Immunity shows as soon as 72 hours after application against Bordetella, Immunity against Parainfluenza is to be expected 3 weeks after vaccination.

How long do I have to stop training after a vaccination?
The vaccination is best given before one of the “OFF” days in training, followed by two or three days of lighter work, without exhausting the dogs.

Can the vaccination be given together with other vaccinations?
Yes, the vaccine is registered for use in combination with Nobivac DHP vet (Jacobs et al.Vet Rec 2007) and has been tested given together with Nobivac DHPPi and Nobivac Lepto to dogs older than 6 weeks without problem (Boyden and Fensome, BSAVA 2006). Other vaccines (different manufacturers) should not be given within a 14 day interval of giving BpPi / KC because there are no studies available regarding the effects of a combination.

Is it useful to vaccinate a dog after it has been in contact with a dog having kennel cough?
No, the vaccination cannot provide protection against already incubated bacteria and/or Virus by which a dog has previously been infected through contact, even if the vaccination is given directly after.

Can a vaccinated dog spread the vaccine strain and infect other dogs?
Vaccinated dogs can spread the vaccine strain Bordetella bronchoseptica and CPi and can therefore theoretically “infect” other dogs but the vaccine strain is inactivated and apathogenic, therefore an “infection” would be very mild. It would not be enough to provide protection after exposure of a dog that did not receive the vaccine (as in vaccinating another dog, just by shedding the vaccine strain). It would also not be enough for another dog to develop clinically manifest kennel cough itself.

What side effects do I have to expect?
Symptoms of upper respiratory tract affection like sneezing, “reverse sneezing”, mild cough, runny eyes or nose a few days after vaccination may occur and are not unusual.  Veterinary reports since 2009 show an incidence of these side effects occurring at 0,14% of all vaccinated dogs, 70% of which are small breed dogs with a body weight of less than 5 kg. These symptoms are transient.

Which dogs can be vaccinated?
Only healthy, non immune- compromised dogs shall be vaccinated. Dogs with a compromised immune system (e.g. sick, unhealthy, parasite infested, very stressed, exhausted, malnourished) are at risk for developing non satisfactory immunity as well as at a higher risk for showing side effects. Therefore the vaccine should be given during/after a normal (not extensive) period of training, followed by a day’s rest and some lighter training, as stated above.

I have vaccinated my dogs with the BpPi / KC vaccine before August 1st 2013, will I have to vaccinate them again?
No, as the rules have not been public before the 1st of August, there will be exceptions for the 2014 race and we will accept vaccinations given between April 1st and July 31st. However I would once again like to point out that the vaccine is most effective when given between August 1st and January 15th.

Is the vaccine dangerous?
No, please see the answers above concerning side effects.

Does the head vet or the race organization have an economical interest in having the dogs vaccinated against kennel cough?

Is Nobivac sponsoring the race?
Unfortunately not.

Is it reasonable and responsible to have the mushers undergo this kind of expenses?
Yes, mushers are mushers because they have dogs and love dogs. To protect those dogs’ health and life is the most important, reasonable and responsible thing to do for everyone supporting the sport of mushing. Vaccinating the team can also be an insurance for not having to cancel only a few weeks before the race, like 5-10 teams every year have done so up to now.


Kind regards,

Annette Kriller
Head veterinarian Femundløpet
e-mail: praxis@annettekriller.eu