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We know that you love your dog more than your spouse at times. Any sign of illness in them will bring anguish and fear to your heart. Your dog starts in with the deep, hacking or honking cough, and you are losing yourself in worst-case scenarios. I get it.

As fellow dog lovers, we know what you might be going through, but try not to get too up-in-arms just yet.

Most times, kennel cough clears up without much medical intervention within a couple of weeks. So just breathe and talk to your vet about the symptoms. It will ease your mind.

But, to add to your concern, you have started coughing! Can humans get kennel cough?

You ruminate with worry as you wonder to yourself – Did I catch kennel cough from my dog? Is that even possible? 

If you’re freaking out about kennel cough, don’t worry. We’ve put together a wealth of information about kennel cough in humans to help you.

First, let’s review:

What is Kennel Cough?

What is kennel coughWell it’s sometimes referred to as infectious canine Tracheobronchitis, or Bordetella. Kennel cough is a super contagious illness that is prevalent in dogs. Dogs aren’t the only ones that can be affected by the bacteria, but dogs present more cases than other groups because of their likelihood for socialization.

Kennel cough is sometimes referred to as Bordetella. This is because Bordetella bacterium is the culprit that is most often responsible for your dog’s retching cough that is breaking your heart with every wheeze. However, Bordetella doesn’t act alone. It’s more like the toxic friend of the bully that pushes kids around on the playground.

The more likely scenario is that there is an underlying cause such as parainfluenza, adenovirus, parvovirus, or distemper. If you’re not familiar with these viruses, they are the core vaccines that your dog gets as soon as they are old enough. These are the required vaccines due to their dangerous and fatal potential outcomes.

More often than not, the Bordetella bacteria jump onto an already immunocompromised animal’s respiratory system.

Dogs will be more vulnerable to Kennel cough if they:

  • are older dogs with a weakened immune system
  • are young pups with an underdeveloped immune system
  • have one of the above viruses

How Does Kennel Cough Spread?

Bordetella transmission is a sneaky and stealthy one. Its name makes it sound like it is only possible for pound puppies to catch, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Any dog can get Kennel cough.

Tracheobronchitis spreads like wildfire in places like:

  • animal shelters
  • grooming facilities
  • boarding facilities
  • doggy daycares
  • dog parks
  • and anyplace else they are around several other dogs at once.

This is why it is grossly named Kennel cough. Please know that there is no amount of sanitation that can prevent a Kennel Cough outbreak.

Sanitation is essential and necessary, but Kennel cough spreads through the air, so sanitation only goes so far. If your dog happens to get it just realize, it could happen to anyone.

Since Bordetella is airborne, it spreads by:

  • droplets in the air – sneezes, coughs & kisses
  • sharing toys
  • infected water & food bowls

Here’s where sanitation comes in handy. If your dog has Kennel cough:

  • Clean those toys, food and water bowls well and often
  • Don’t let your other animals share anything (even if they also have Kennel cough)
  • Isolate your animal in cozy surroundings with frequently freshened food and water.
  • Consult your vet for expert advice on kennel cough treatments
Sharing of infected toysKisses from the infected dog
Sharing contaminated food or water bowlsDroplets from infected rabbit, cat, mouse, pig horse
Transmission from another dogTransmission from another human

So you say you’re coughing and you wonder, “can humans get kennel cough from dogs?”

It’s incredibly rare, but it could happen.

There are very few cases of kennel cough being transferred to humans. Honestly, if you’re a modestly healthy person and you get sick after your dog has had Kennel cough, it’s probably a coincidence. However, there have been cases where this has been reported.

In every case of kennel cough being transferred from an animal to a human, the human was severely immunocompromised. Though Kennel cough in humans is super duper rare, humans experiencing or suffering from the following conditions will be more vulnerable to transmission :

  • Cancer
  • Recent organ transplant

What Are The Symptoms Of Kennel Cough In Humans?

Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Humans

  1. Persistent cough
  2. Sore throat
  3. Difficulty swallowing
  4. Shortness of breath
  5. Fever
  6. Fatigue

Persistent Cough

Just like with kennel cough in your fur baby, Bordetella bronchiseptica causes a persistent and annoying cough in humans as well. The human’s cough will likely be unproductive, deep and hacking, similar to your pet’s.

Sore Throat

Bordetella infects the upper respiratory system causing swelling, leading to a sore throat. The persistent cough will also exacerbate the already sore, swollen throat.

Difficulty Swallowing

As the infection takes place on the compromised immune system, sore throat, cough, and swelling of the windpipe will cause difficult and painful swallowing.

Shortness of Breath

The symptoms somewhat compile on themselves as they do for many illnesses, particularly respiratory ones.

Shortness of breath can occur as kennel cough symptoms worsen before they improve. Coughing may make it more challenging to breathe between fits. The swelling of the trachea can also make taking a deep breath harder than usual.


A low fever may ensue as the body fights off the infection. Low fevers are a sign that your body’s immune system is trying to do its job. A slight fever stimulates the immune cells to fight the invading bacteria.


If you or someone you know is one of the few that catches kennel cough, you’re going to have to take it easy. Just because it’s a dog infection most often doesn’t mean you can go one doing your day-to-day.

Humans will find themselves quite fatigued without doing the same things they’d do on a regular day.

Kennel cough in humans will feel very similar to the flu or Coronavirus. In fact, you should probably get tested for Covid if you have these overlapping symptoms. It is more likely you have Coronavirus at this point than Kennel cough. Because again, it is very rare for humans to contract Kennel cough.

Speaking of Covid, this article suggests that the increasing amount of kennel cough cases this year may be affected by the emergence of Covid-19. 

British Columbia Veterinarians have seen a definite correlation.

Persistent coughCough Suppressants
Difficulty SwallowingAntibiotics
Shortness of breathRelax, do not overexert
Sore ThroatAntibiotics

The Ways Humans Catch Kennel Cough

How humans catch kennel coughIn the extremely rare cases that humans contract kennel cough, they have either gotten it from:

  • a dog in their home
  • an infected human
  • other animals that catch and carry kennel coughs like cats, horses, pigs, guinea pigs, and rabbits.

Or this could happen:

There was a report on a young boy that was sprayed with a Bordetella vaccine and became quite sick afterward. 

A 14-yr-old boy accidentally bent down just as the vet was spraying the intranasal vaccine, and sprayed it in the boy’s face instead.

About five days later, the boy developed symptoms of pertussis. Pertussis or whooping cough is similar to kennel cough in dogs, and it actually spawns from a different strain of Bordetella, crazy, right?

It’s possible the Bordetella vaccine morphed into Bordetella pertussis. The boy’s cough persisted for four months! Let this be a lesson to you! Don’t take dog vaccines!

How Do Humans Catch Kennel Cough From Their Dogs?

Kissing Dog

If you’re going to catch kennel cough from your dog, it will be from kisses, sneezes in your mouth or you sharing water bowls. No, I’m kidding. Well you can get it that way, but you’re not sharing a water bowl with your dog, right?

Kennel cough is airborne and transferred through aerosol droplets of moisture from their body to yours.

How To Treat Kennel Cough In Humans

How to Treat Humans with Kennel CoughKennel cough in humans is so rare that there aren’t that many known treatments. There are fewer treatments for Kennel cough in humans than in animals.

If you’re a human and you have Kennel Cough, your doctor will probably prescribe either:

  1. Antibiotics
  2. Cough suppressants


AntibioticsThe standard cure to any bacterial infection is an antibiotic. Antibiotics seek out and kill or slow the reproduction of the bacterial invader. Antibiotics typically start working in 2-3 days and need to be taken to completion. There are usually some things you need to avoid while you’re on antibiotics, so pay attention to the pharmacist during your med consult.

Cough Suppressants

Prescribed cough suppressants can come in capsule or liquid form. Many cough suppressants work by numbing the lining of the lungs, and the airways, to lessen irritation and make coughing less painful.

Over-the-counter treatments for cold and cough can help alleviate symptoms as well. Things like:

  1. Cough medicine
  2. Fever-reducers like ibuprofen

Cough medicine

Some good ol’ tussin always does the trick. Well, maybe not for everyone but if you have had good results with cough syrups like Robitussin or delsym, they can lend some relief to the infamous persistent cough.

You’ve had a cold before; you know what to do. Stock up on the orange juice, chicken soup and tissues and take a load off.

Fever reducers

Ibuprofen is a go-to for headaches, fever, and inflammation. Acetaminophen is also a fever reducer but not as great at cutting the swelling down. You choose your go-to natural treatments for kennel cough in humans:

  1. Green tea with honey
  2. Garlic

Green tea with honey

Tea & HoneyGreen tea can reduce inflammation and is chock full of antioxidants that can prevent cell damage.

Honey also has a ton of benefits; it’s a natural remedy for kennel cough that can even helpful for your dog’s sore throat. Honey has antibacterial properties which are ideal in this situation, so make a warm sweet treat that also helps kick the bacteria to the curb.


GarlicGarlic concentrate fights bacteria according to this study. So your breath won’t be great, but you can fight bacteria and kennel cough in humans with a dose of garlic. Please note: it is controversial if garlic is safe for dogs or not so don’t share this one with your pup.

Home Treatments For Kennel Cough In Humans

Home Treatments for Humans with Kennel Cough

  • Use of a humidifier
  • A hot bath or shower

For an unlucky few, Bordetella Bronchiseptica, the bacteria causing Kennel cough, can be extremely dangerous. Gone untreated the hacking cough and other annoying symptoms can turn into Pneumonia.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is caused by bacteria resulting in the infection of one or both lungs. There are 30 different types of Pneumonia, but in this instance, we are talking about bacterial Pneumonia caused by Bordetella.

Again, this is very uncommon, but in the cases where a human was infected with Bordetella Bronchiseptica and later developed Pneumonia, they had an underlying condition such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, or had just undergone organ transplant surgery.

The early symptoms of Pneumonia are similar to the severe symptoms of kennel cough in humans.

Early symptoms of Pneumonia:

  1. Cough
  2. Fever
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Lethargy
  5. Loss of Appetite
  6. Sharp chest pains
  7. Shallow breathing

Pneumonia can be very dangerous to animals and humans, even fatal. If you are experiencing any of the bolded symptoms, don’t wait, see your doctor.

Humans can get kennel cough if they fall under the following categories:

  • They have cancer
  • They have HIV/AIDS
  • Recent transplant surgery
  • Pregnancy
  • Young children & babies
  • Older people with health issues
  • Those with depleted immune systems

Immunocompromised Humans Dos and Don’ts

Having a dog while immunocompromisedIf you’d like to have a pet to keep you company here are some tips to keep you safe while you find your next furry forever friend.

Do check out online adoption pages.

Go ahead and check out your city’s local shelters and see who might be available. I know we like to save the homely ones, but you need a healthy pup that is of no risk to your immune system. So look for a healthy animal that matches your activity level and temperament.

Don’t go to the shelter in person.

Animal shelters are one of the most common places to find kennel cough, so don’t risk it. If you’re really interested in one of the doggies at the pound, then have a friend or family member go check out the dog for you. If they know you and know what you’re looking for, they can be a great help in finding your new best friend.

Do inquire about kennel cough.

Your friend can always call and ask the shelter if there have been any kennel cough cases recently. Same with any place you find a dog. Don’t afraid to call and ask questions.

Don’t be afraid to call and ask questions.

Granted the folks volunteering at animal shelters are usually quite busy, but they do want the best for these animals. They won’t mind if you have some questions about a furry sweetie that has sparked your interest.

Do consider getting a dog from a friend or family if possible.

Getting a dog from family or friends you know and trust is is safer than the alternative. Like anything else, you have more of an idea of what you are getting.

Hopefully, your friend or family would be honest about any health problems or recent illnesses. They would also be more likely to have a fully vaccinated dog.

Don’t get an unvaccinated dog.

I know all puppies are so cute, but it would be better if you got a dog that has definitely had the bordetella vaccine. With an unvaccinated dog, especially puppies, you take the risk of transmitting any zoonotic disease back and forth.

Puppies have very sensitive immune systems because they are underdeveloped, so you might not be the best match.

Do consider a dog that is being “rehomed.”

Maybe you know someone who is moving and can’t take their lazy old lab with them. Because they have already been with a family, they should have all of their vaccines. If they don’t, they need to be updated before they start bunking with you.

The other plus is that the dog may come from an only dog household. Even if there were other animals in the house, kennel cough is much less likely to pop up at home.

Do have someone to help with the care of the animal.

It’s always nice to have someone to help lighten the load. Seriously immunocompromised people should not go to vet’s offices either as that is another likely place to pick up kennel cough and other zoonotic diseases.


Well, here we are again, learning all there is to know about humans’ best friend. Until next time, keep your canine bestie and yourself healthy and safe.