Can Humans Get Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough, or bordetella which is the scientific name, is a highly contagious illness that dogs can get. This respiratory illness is very similar to our bronchitis and can cause a cough in similar fashion. Kennel cough is readily transmitted from one dog to another and thus can be easily spread if a dog in the kennel has not been vaccinated against the condition. By sharing quarters and being in close proximity to one another dogs can rapidly spread the illness. However, people want to know can humans get kennel cough too? If yes, how should one avoid the infection?

Can Humans Get Kennel Cough?

Interestingly, Kennel cough is a zoonotic condition. Zoonotic means that the condition can readily pass back and forth from your dog to you. Those who struggle with a low immune system due to having HIV/AIDS, cancer patients undergoing treatment with chemotherapy, organ transplant patients and anyone who has a lowered immune system due to age (both the very young as well as the elderly) may all be at risk of contracting a zoonotic condition from their pet. However, it is very rare for a healthy individual to contract a zoonotic condition.

Always wash your hands after you've played with any dog, especially if you have touched their nose or mouth of if the dog has licked you. Don't allow dogs to lick your hands or your face, if they do, wash your hands or face immediately afterward.

How to Prevent

But just don’t be frightened by the positive answer to the question: can humans get kennel cough?Thankfully there are several ways to avoid such conditions if you live I a household with someone who has a compromised immune system. To start with, avoid sending your dogs to a kennel or even the veterinary clinic if at all possible. If there is no way to avoid such measures, always ensure that your dog has been vaccinated against the Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough) and ensure that the veterinary clinic you use as well as any kennels that you use, all have requirements in place for dogs to be vaccinated against the condition as well.

If you're seeking a new pet, only buy or procure your new pet from a licensed pet facility that has proof of vaccination. Avoid getting your new pet from animal shelters where they may not have been vaccinated. Don't handle any pets from an animal shelter either, they could be infected as well.

Note that the vaccine is a modified live version of the virus so it is less virulent than the regular condition. Even though the vaccine is a weaker version of the virus, there is still a concern that those at high risk may contract the condition.

What If My Dog Has Kennel Cough? How to Treat?

Most dogs that have kennel cough will recover within about 3 weeks’ time. However, if the dog is older, it may take up to six weeks for a full recovery. It's vital to monitor the dog’s health during this time. If your dog is really struggling with symptoms you may wish to call your veterinarian and see if there is more treatment that you can be doing to help ease your dog’s symptoms. You don't want the condition to turn into pneumonia which could wind up being fatal to and older or very young dog. Keep your dog in a well-ventilated area and keep the humidity up. Avoid using a leash that may cause your pet to choke and instead use a harness to take the pressure off of the throat.

If your pet is struggling, your veterinarian may have you give your pet some antibiotics or cough medication to help prevent spread of the condition. When considering the question, “can humans get kennel cough?” you may wish to tell your veterinarian if you have anyone living in your home with a lowered immune system so that your pet can be treated with antibiotics or cough medication pro-actively.

More About Kennel Cough in Dogs


Just as a human can catch a cold, your dog may catch kennel cough. There are a variety of causes of the condition. The most typical cause of the condition is the bacteria referred to as Bordetella bronchiseptica. It's been shortened to Bordetella or kennel cough. This virus can come from adenovirus, canine herpes, parainfluenza, canine distemper or reovirus.

Just as a human can inhale particles from a cough or a sneeze, your dog can inhale the particles from the bacteria or virus that will carry kennel cough. The dog then takes this into their respiratory tract and becomes ill.


Typical symptoms of kennel cough will include a cough that sounds very similar to that of a bronchitis cough. It may also sound like a reverse sneeze. For some dog breeds, this is normal and may only indicate that the dog has a minor throat irritation or post nasal drip.

Other symptoms may include a runny nose, watery or runny eyes and frequent sneezing. Your dog may have a decreased appetite as well although this is rare. Most dogs will maintain their appetite as well as their energy level. 

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