Can Kennel Cough Be Spread to Humans?

Can kennel cough be spread to humans?
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Dog owners are frequently concerned about kennel cough, one of the contagious diseases that harm our beloved pets. But what about the possibility of transmission to humans? In this comprehensive blog post, we will delve into the world of kennel cough, exploring its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. Most crucially, we will answer the burning question: Can kennel cough spread to humans? Let’s get to the bottom of things and separate fact from fiction.

Understanding Kennel Cough

Canine infectious tracheobronchitis, sometimes known as kennel cough, is a highly contagious respiratory ailment that mostly affects dogs. It’s usually caused by a mix of bacteria and viruses, such as Bordetella bronchiseptica, canine parainfluenza virus, and canine adenovirus type 2. Kennel cough is characterized by a chronic, severe cough, which is frequently equated to a honking sound, and it may be very distressing for our canine pets.

The Transmission of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough spreads through respiratory droplets exhaled by diseased dogs, especially in close quarters like kennels, dog parks, or grooming facilities. When an infected dog coughs or sneezes, the bacteria and viruses become airborne, posing a risk to other canines. Kennel cough spreads quickly within dog populations due to its extremely contagious nature.

Can Kennel Cough be Spread to Humans?

Can kennel cough be spread to humans? The short answer is “highly unlikely.” Kennel cough is largely a canine disease that is not considered zoonotic, which means it does not normally spread from animals to humans. The bacteria and viruses that cause kennel cough are designed to infect the respiratory systems of dogs, not humans.

The structure and physiology of dogs’ and humans’ respiratory systems differ greatly. In dogs, these infections target specific receptors and cell types that are not present or differ from those seen in humans. The difference in respiratory systems makes it difficult for the germs and viruses that cause kennel cough to infect humans.

Furthermore, research has demonstrated that attempts to spread the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica to humans, a common cause of kennel cough, have mostly failed. Human volunteers did not develop symptomatic infections or show any indicators of disease even when exposed to high concentrations of the germs.

While the danger of humans catching kennel cough is negligible, a few rare cases of humans testing positive for the bacteria or viruses associated with kennel cough have been documented. These occurrences, however, are extremely rare and mainly involve people with impaired immune systems or underlying respiratory disorders.

Transmission is thought to occur in such circumstances through close and continuous contact with infected dogs, particularly those with severe symptoms of kennel cough. This emphasizes the significance of excellent hygiene and safeguards while dealing with sick animals, especially if you or someone in your home has a weaker immune system.

There has been no reported evidence of kennel cough causing serious sickness or outbreaks in humans yet, and the risk remains low. Nonetheless, it is always a good idea to thoroughly wash your hands after handling dogs with respiratory diseases and to prevent coming into contact with their respiratory secretions.

While the possibility of humans contracting kennel cough exists in rare cases, it is not a significant concern for the general population. The bacteria and viruses that cause kennel cough are well-adapted to infect dogs but not humans. We can ensure the health of both our canine companions and ourselves by practicing proper hygiene and taking measures.

Recognizing Human Respiratory Infections

While kennel cough does not pose a direct threat to humans, it is critical to recognize that humans can get other respiratory illnesses from animals. Zoonotic diseases such as influenza, TB, and certain types of pneumonia, for example, can be transferred between species. These pathogens use unique mechanisms to adapt to both animal and human hosts.

The Importance of Personal Hygiene

Kennel cough: even though the risk of spread among humans is low, good personal hygiene is essential when working with sick animals. Hand washing after handling a sick dog, avoiding direct contact with their respiratory secretions, and keeping a clean environment can help prevent the spread of any potential diseases.

Protecting Dogs and Humans Alike

It is critical to ensure that dogs have regular immunizations, particularly the kennel cough vaccine, to prevent or protect the spread of the disease among dogs and humans. Vaccinations minimize the risk of dogs developing and transmitting kennel cough dramatically. The Bordetella vaccine, widely known as the kennel cough vaccine, is regularly given to dogs as part of their routine vaccination plan.

The kennel cough vaccine stimulates the immune system of the dog, allowing it to recognize and defend against the bacteria and viruses that cause kennel cough. By vaccinating dogs, we not only protect them from the disease but also limit the risk of transmission to other dogs and, as a result, the overall prevalence of kennel cough in the canine population.

It should be noted that the kennel cough vaccine does not provide complete protection. Breakthrough infections, similar to human vaccinations, can occur in vaccinated dogs, although they are usually milder. If a vaccinated dog does get kennel cough, the vaccine dramatically decreases the severity and duration of the illness.

In addition to vaccination, adequate cleanliness and avoiding overcrowded or filthy conditions play critical roles in limiting the spread of respiratory illnesses among dogs and, by extension, safeguarding humans.

Common Misconceptions

Despite the scientific data showing the low danger of humans catching kennel cough, some myths linger. Let us dispel some of these myths and shed some light on the matter.

Misconception 1: The Sound of the Cough Indicates Human Transmission

One prevalent myth is that the coughing sound associated with kennel cough is directly related to the disease’s spread to humans. The sound of the cough, however, does not indicate the disease’s ability to infect humans. The typical honking cough is caused by irritation and inflammation in the dog’s respiratory tract, but this does not mean that the pathogens generating the cough are capable of infecting humans.

Misconception 2: Humans Can Develop Kennel Cough Symptoms

Another common misunderstanding is that humans might develop kennel cough symptoms if they come into contact with an infected dog. As previously stated, the bacteria and viruses that cause kennel cough are designed to infect the respiratory systems of dogs and are not well-suited to infect humans. As a result, even if exposed to an infected dog, humans are unlikely to develop kennel cough symptoms.

Misconception 3: Kennel Cough Can Easily Spread to Humans

Because kennel cough is highly contagious among dogs, some people believe it can easily spread to humans. While kennel cough is highly prevalent in dogs, its spread to humans is quite uncommon. The viruses that cause kennel cough are not well-suited to infect humans, and the differences in our respiratory systems act as a natural barrier to such transmission.

Misconception 4: Kennel Cough Vaccination Protects Humans

It is widely assumed that vaccinating dogs against kennel cough provides direct protection for humans. However, it is critical to recognize that the primary goal of the kennel cough vaccine is to protect dogs from the disease and to minimize its spread among the canine community. The vaccine does not directly protect humans or prevent kennel cough transmission from dogs to humans.

Misconception 5: Kennel Cough Can Lead to Severe Illness in Humans

Some people may be concerned that if they come into contact with a dog infected with kennel cough, they will become seriously ill. However, as previously noted, the likelihood of humans suffering kennel cough-related symptomatic infections or serious sickness is quite low. Healthy people, including children and adults, are not at high risk of contracting the disease or developing serious complications.

When it comes to understanding the transmission and hazards connected with kennel cough, it is critical to rely on scientific information and expert advice. We can better focus on implementing suitable preventive measures and protecting the well-being of both canines and humans if we eliminate these myths.

Immunocompromised Individuals and Precautions

While the danger of transfer to humans is low, those with weakened immune systems may be more susceptible to infections in general. If you or someone in your household has a weaker immune system, it is best to seek individualized advice from a healthcare practitioner before engaging with ill animals.

How is kennel cough spread?

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, can be spread in a variety of ways. The following are the most prevalent ways kennel cough is spread:

  • Direct Contact: The principal mechanism of transmission is through dog-to-dog contact. When an infected dog coughs, sneezes, or interacts with a healthy dog nearby, respiratory droplets containing infectious agents (bacteria or viruses) can be discharged into the air and swallowed by the healthy dog.
  • Contaminated Surfaces: Kennel cough germs can persist for a short time on surfaces such as food bowls, toys, beds, or flooring. If a healthy dog comes into contact with these contaminated surfaces and then licks or sniffs them, the viruses can be ingested, and the dog becomes ill.
  • Airborne Transmission: In rare situations, the infectious organisms that cause kennel cough might remain suspended in the air as aerosolized particles. This method of transmission is less prevalent, but it can happen in places with poor ventilation or close quarters, such as kennels or shelters.
  • Inadvertent Transmission: By coming into contact with diseased dogs and subsequently carrying the pathogens on their hands, clothing, or other surfaces, people might unwittingly transmit kennel cough pathogens.

Can kennel cough be spread to humans?

Kennel cough, or infectious tracheobronchitis, can spread from dogs to humans, but this is rare. Symptoms in humans may include a persistent cough, sore throat, and fever. If your dog develops a persistent, hacking cough, it could be a kennel cough. It is possible to develop it under extremely uncommon circumstances.

What are the symptoms of kennel cough in humans?

Kennel cough is a respiratory ailment that mostly affects dogs and is seldom encountered in humans. While it is extremely rare for humans to get kennel cough, a few isolated cases have been reported. The symptoms found in humans in these rare cases are often minor and mirror ordinary respiratory illnesses.

If a human is infected with the microorganisms linked with kennel cough, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Cough: A persistent, dry, and hacking cough is the hallmark symptom of kennel cough in both dogs and, rarely, humans. The cough may be accompanied by a tickling or irritation sensation in the throat.
  • Sore Throat: Some individuals may experience a sore throat along with a cough. The throat may feel scratchy, painful, or irritated.
  • Runny or Stuffy Nose:  In a few cases, nasal congestion, runny nose, or sneezing may occur. These symptoms are more frequently linked to respiratory viruses.
  • Mild Fever: A low-grade fever may be present in some cases. Fever is a frequent bodily response to infection and can signal an immunological response.
  • Fatigue and Malaise: Similar to other respiratory infections, general sensations of tiredness, weakness, or malaise may be present.

It is crucial to emphasize that human infections with kennel cough pathogens are extremely rare, and most people will not develop symptoms if they are exposed to sick dogs. When symptoms do arise, they are usually moderate and self-limiting, and they resolve without the need for medical attention.

How contagious is kennel cough to humans?

Because kennel cough is communicable to humans, it is possible to spread the sickness from a dog, but this is uncommon. People with underlying medical conditions are more likely to get kennel cough, but symptoms are uncommon even in these instances.

What is the fastest way to cure kennel cough?

Similar to a head cold in humans, kennel cough in dogs responds best to rest, fluids, and time. Allow your dog to rest for a few weeks and drink plenty of water (or clear, unseasoned broth) to stay hydrated. Wet meals may also be beneficial during this period.

How do you treat kennel cough at home?

Honey is an excellent home cure for kennel cough since it soothes your dog’s throat and reduces coughing. In a bowl, mix 1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon of honey with a little warm water for your dog. Depending on how frequently your dog coughs, this can be given up to three times per day.


Dogs are the primary victims of kennel cough, a common respiratory condition. While it can be upsetting for our pets, the risk of humans catching kennel cough is low. The bacteria and viruses that cause kennel cough are designed to infect dogs and are not designed to transmit to humans. We can protect both our canine companions and ourselves from respiratory illnesses by practicing proper hygiene, vaccinating dogs, and keeping a clean atmosphere.

Remember that if you feel your dog has kennel cough or any other health issues, you should always contact a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

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