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dog with kennel cough

Is Kennel Cough Contagious to Humans? (Prevention and Treatment)

Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease spread among dogs in social settings. But is it contagious to humans? The answer is — sometimes.

If you have a dog, they may have come contracted kennel cough at some point or have been required to get a Bordatella vaccine in order to use many dog-related services. While kennel cough is generally not fatal for your pup, it can lead to some severe side effects if left untreated. In addition, for any pet owner facing this illness, you may wonder if kennel cough is contagious to humans. 

So is kennel cough in dogs contagious to humans?

Kennel cough is generally not contagious to humans, but it can affect immunocompromised people as well as pregnant women and infants. Therefore, it is best to keep these at-risk people away from dogs who have the disease or who have had it in the past 14 days.

Let’s start by looking at what kennel cough is, how it is spread, who can get it, what its symptoms are, and how it can be prevented and treated.

What is Kennel Cough? 

Kennel cough is an infectious canine upper respiratory disease. It can quickly spread through droplets in the air, direct contact with infected dogs, or contaminated surfaces. Like the human common cold, kennel cough is easy to catch for dogs who come into close contact with infected animals or areas. 

Causes and Transmission of Kennel Cough

This illness is a complication of several infectious elements, with one of the more common ones being Bordetella bronchiseptica. Some other bacterial and viral elements that could infect your pet with kennel cough may be Streptococcus zooepidemicus, parainfluenza, and others. 

Because this illness is highly contagious and is a combination of bacteria and viral factors, many boarding facilities, grooming companies, and other pet facilities will require a vaccine before attending. One small outbreak can mean a complete closure and total sanitation of the area to ensure no other animals get sick. 

This infectious disease can exist on surfaces for up to 48 hours, making it challenging to keep your dog free from illness in busy areas like dog parks. In addition, your pet can become sick after sharing dishes, toys, or kennels when there is an active infection present. 

Some animals will become ill with kennel cough even though they do not frequently visit boarding kennels, dog parks, or other animals. Their infection can result from another human carrying the virus into your home or coming in contact with an infected surface outside your house. This situation can happen during a walk, for example. 

Even after a dog has recovered from any symptoms, they can still carry the virus around with them. Some animals will still be contagious anywhere from 10 to 14 days after infection. This time could be shorter with the use of antibiotics to help rid them of any active viruses. 

Reinfection Rates of Kennel Cough 

Because kennel cough is a combination of many different bacterial and viral elements, it is not always the same strain that will cause sickness, much like a human cold. However, many variants could infect your animal if they frequent areas where sick pets are present. Unfortunately, this means your dog can contract kennel cough twice or multiple times during their life. 

One comforting fact to know is if your canine has the Bordetella bronchiseptica strain of the illness, they will be immune to reinfection anywhere from 6 to 12 months. 

Can I Get Kennel Cough From My Dog? 

While it’s been made evident that dogs can get it, is kennel cough contagious to humans? Pet owners and handlers can carry the bacteria and pass it from animals to various surfaces, continuing the sickness while not getting ill themselves. However, this disease can affect some immuneocompromised people, although it is not a common occurrence. 

Individuals who have lung cancer, HIV, or other respiratory problems can show symptoms of kennel cough after coming into contact with the virus. While it is not typical for infection, any dogs with an active disease should not come in contact with pregnant women or young babies. 

Kennel Cough Symptoms in Dogs 

The bacteria and viruses the dog takes in through contact or breathing droplets settle in their trachea and around the voice box, creating a stubborn cough due to inflammation. Your dog may sound like a honking goose or like they are choking on something. It can sound worse than it is, since typically your dog will not be lethargic, lose their appetite, or have a decrease in energy if they are sick with kennel cough. 

A trained vet can determine if your dog has kennel cough, but there are some symptoms you may notice that will point to this diagnosis. Your dog may show these signs: 

  • Forceful and persistent cough 
  • Runny nose 
  • Eye discharge 
  • Sneezing 

Some symptoms of kennel cough are similar to that of canine distemper and the canine influenza virus. A professional can help you determine your dog’s illness and recommend a treatment plan to help them recover. 

If your dog is beginning to show a lack of appetite, low-grade fever, decreased energy, or lethargy, seek professional care immediately. Your pet may be suffering from a more severe illness that will need immediate treatment. 

dog with kennel cough opens mouth

Kennel Cough Symptoms in Humans 

Much like your four-legged friend, a person will show some similar symptoms if they have an active kennel cough infection. Watch for one or more of these signs if you are worried about this illness: 

  • Sore throat 
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent, stubborn cough 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Respiratory problems
  • Fever 

Without treatment, your infection could result in pneumonia, creating a more severe problem than just a cough. Individuals with pre-existing conditions that contract kennel cough can also develop: 

  • Fluid build-up around the lungs
  • Lung abscess 
  • Respiratory failure 
  • Septic shock 

If you know you have come in contact with the kennel cough virus or are unsure of your symptoms, talk to your family doctor or medical practitioner as soon as possible. Mild symptoms can quickly become severe problems for individuals with underlying medical conditions. 

Kennel Cough Complications 

On average, kennel cough does not need special treatment and will naturally subside and go away on its own within three to six weeks. This timeline is dependent on the age of your animal and if they have any pre-existing conditions that may increase the severity of their illness. 

Senior dogs can develop chronic bronchitis after a bout of kennel cough, while puppies who do not have mature immune systems can develop fatal bronchopneumonia. If your young pup or senior animal contracts this infectious disease, you should seek treatment rather than wait it out. 

Even healthy dogs may exhibit severe symptoms after contracting kennel cough. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health and a kennel cough infection, seek your veterinarian’s advice as soon as possible. 

Treatment for Kennel Cough 

Many healthy animals will not require treatment if they develop symptoms of kennel cough. Often, the stubborn cough will subside and go away on its own within one to three weeks with no complications. However, for puppies, senior dogs, or animals that cannot shake the virus, they should be seen by a vet to avoid any severe issues. 

Treatment For Dogs 

A vet will often treat kennel cough in dogs with antibiotics, cough suppressant medication, or even vaporizers to aid with breathing. In addition, all dogs should be vaccinated with the Bordetella vaccine each year to minimize the chance of them contracting this disease. Of course, your dog may still become infected even after vaccination, but you can significantly reduce the severity of their symptoms with preventative measures. 

If your pet is fighting a case of kennel cough, it is vital that you clean and sanitize your hands each time you handle their food and water dishes, toys and come in contact with them. This way, you will not transmit the virus to other surfaces or animals and continue the infection. 

Clean all surfaces, including their kennel and bedding, regularly and keep them away from other animals in the home. You can use a simple mixture of 1 ounce of household bleach with 32 ounces of water to disinfect all areas, toys, and bedding effectively. 

Can I Give My Dog Robitussin for Kennel Cough?

Many vets will recommend Robitussin DM (Dextromethorphan) to alleviate symptoms of kennel cough. It is a medication intended for humans, and has never been approved for use in animals by the FDA. However, its effectiveness in suppressing coughing and chronic bronchitis in dogs has made it a common part of veterinarians’ care plans for kennel cough.

You should not give Robitussin to your dog without consulting with your vet first. They may very well encourage you to treat your dog with it, but they will be able to tell you whether it is an appropriate medication for your dog’s symptoms or not.

Like any medicine, there are potential interactions with other medications as well as side effects, and you need to be make sure that you are actually treating the correct ailment.

Robitussin Dosage for Dogs:

The most common concentration of Robitussin is 2mg/ml, and it comes in either liquid or tablets. The normal recommended dosage is between .5mg and 1mg per pound of the animal’s weight, taken every 12 hours. Again, you should have your vet tell you the correct dosage for your dog.

Robitussin should not be taken if your dog has heart disease or lung disease like pneumonia.

Dogs can have reactions to Robitussin, which include restlessness, anxiety, dizziness, and insomnia, among others.  Once again, consult with your vet before using and if your dog exhibits any of these symptoms after taking Robitussin.

Robitussin should also not be taken if your dog is taking any sedatives, tranquilizers, or barbiturates.

Treatment For Humans 

If your doctor confirms you have a kennel cough infection, they will provide you with antibiotics and a cough suppressant (likely Robitussin) to help minimize symptoms until you fully recover.  

Recovering From Kennel Cough 

While 10 to 14 days may seem like a long time to keep your dog in isolation, it is the best course of action with this infectious disease. You should not take your pet to any common areas like dog parks, kennels, or daycares or for walks down your street. Although you can control your dog, someone else’s pet may run up to you during your stroll and come in close contact with your dog and contract kennel cough. 

You do not want to be the reason why someone else’s pet becomes sick. It is best to keep your dog at home until they are fully recovered and free of any residual contagions in the weeks afterward. 

The Takeaway 

Kennel cough is a prevalent but highly contagious upper respiratory illness that many dogs will face at some time during their life. However, with proper care, including regular vaccines and regular cleaning protocols, you can keep your pet safe and healthy. 

Remember that even if you do not show any symptoms of kennel cough yourself, you could be carrying the virus to other surfaces, animals or even humans. You must wash your hands and sanitize all your dog’s items properly when they have this illness so that you do not contract it or pass it along to another dog. 

Hopefully you now have the answer to the question, “is kennel cough contagious to humans?” Prevention is key to keeping your animal and others safe and healthy. 

Superb Dog Editor

Superb Dog Editor