Nasal or Injectable – Which Vaccine is Best for Your Dog?

Recently, vaccination has become a very controversial subject. Gone are the simple days when your pet would receive a series of puppy shots and then shots every year. This was the typical method used to keep our pets healthy. But, with the advent of immune diseases thought to be associated with vaccination, the route of vaccine has become a hot topic.

Most people are familiar with the injectable vaccines. These commonly are used to protect from parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, bordetella and rabies. Recently, vaccines have become available that are applied topically, usually in the nose or eyes. There are disadvantages and advantages of each method of vaccination and topical vaccines are not available to protect against all diseases.

In the dog, the only topical vaccine commonly used is the vaccine used to protect against Bordetella bronchiseptica, one of the bacterial agents that has been implicated in canine kennel cough. This vaccination is available as an injectable or as a vaccine to be placed directly into the nose as nasal drops.

Advantages of Nasal Vaccination

There are several advantages to intranasal vaccination of bordetella. Some studies have shown that the nasal method of administration may result in quicker protection. The intranasal vaccine also is intended to protect the animal at the source of the infection, the upper airways.

Another advantage is that there is not an injection. This is particularly positive for those dogs that are very sensitive and find injection painful.

Disadvantage of Nasal Vaccination

Recent studies have questioned the effectiveness of the intranasal vaccine, especially when given to dogs that have either been previously vaccinated or have been exposed to bordetella. This recent study indicates that the nasal vaccine works well in a dog that has either never been vaccinated or has not had kennel cough. Future vaccinations should be injectable to provide protection.

Another disadvantage is there may be some side effects following the nasal vaccine. Sneezing, mild cough and fever may develop 1 to 2 days following vaccination and usually resolves in 3 to 4 days. Some dogs do not like having drops placed in their nose and will strongly resist.


Due to the recently published study comparing injectable and nasal vaccines, it is currently recommended that the injectable vaccine be given. If desired, the nasal vaccine can be given the first time, followed by the injectable vaccine for future boosters. For all vaccines, it is important to vaccinate at least 5 days before potential exposure. Vaccines do not work immediately. It takes time for the body to respond to the vaccine, develop immunity and provide protection against the specific disease.