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Oh the dreaded hacking cough, runny nose, gooey eyes, and isolation from your best canine, but wait, now you’re having similar symptoms! You wonder, can I catch kennel cough from my dog? 

The answer is yes, but before you get all up in arms about the whole thing, just chill out and read this. It’s extremely rare for humans to catch kennel cough from their dogs or anywhere. 

In any case, where a human has contracted kennel cough, that person has been seriously immunocompromised.

We’ll touch on several topics and FAQ about kennel cough in humans.

  1. Who is most at risk for kennel cough?
  2. How is Bordetella transferred?
  3. Is kennel cough contagious to humans?
  4. Can humans spread kennel cough?
  5. What are zoonotic diseases?
  6. Can humans transmit kennel cough to dogs?
  7. What are the risks of the kennel cough vaccine in humans?

Who Is Most at Risk for Contracting Kennel Cough?

Humans spread kennel coughThe people that are most vulnerable to kennel cough would be folks with:

Those with underdeveloped immune systems can also be at higher risk than the average person. Those individuals include:

  • Babies and young children
  • Pregnant women

Before we get into the things you should know about kennel cough in humans, lets review:

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough has several names. You may have heard it referred to as canine tracheobronchitis or bordetella. It’s all the same.

Kennel cough gets the distasteful name from where and how dogs transmit and contract the virus/bacteria. Bordetella spreads a little too quickly in places where a lot of dogs are hanging out. So this includes places like:

  • animal shelters
  • boarding facilities
  • grooming salons
  • dog parks
  • doggy daycares

Even going to the veterinarian can pose a level of risk for your dog to contract kennel cough.

Listen, everything is going to be okay. Luckily, 90% of the time, kennel cough gets better with a little coddling, rest, and healthy nutrition.

Even in severe cases, if you catch it before the dog is burning up from the fever, they should heal just fine with the help of your vet, maybe some natural remedies or if necessary, some antibiotics and cough suppressants.

If your dog has a cough, consult your veterinarian with the symptoms they are experiencing. The symptoms of kennel cough in dogs include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Runny nose
  • Gooey eyes
  • Lack of energy
  • Low fever

In more severe cases:

  • Honking cough
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

Though kennel cough is curable and usually passes without any crazy medical intervention, it is essential to allow your baby time to rest and recuperate.

If left untreated kennel cough can go from not so harmful to very dangerous. There have been severe cases where the bordetella bacteria has latched onto a virus and eventually causes the onset of pneumonia. Whether you’ve had pneumonia in the past or haven’t, you still know how frightening it can be to hear of someone’s diagnosis.

How is Bordetella Transferred?

How is Bordetella Transferred?The bordetella bacteria is airborne meaning it transfers by way of aerosol. Somewhat like a can of hairspray, when our dogs or we cough the spit particles fly out into the air. Most of the time you can’t even see them, but they’re there.

Direct contact with another dogDroplets from infected rabbit, cat, mouse, pig horse
Sharing of infected toysDirect contact with  another infected human by aerosol transmission
Sharing contaminated food or water bowlsDirect contact with droplets from an infected dog

Bordetella is the little evil stinker that is in that spit, making it infectious to dogs, cats, pigs, rabbits and sometimes humans.

Bordetella is like a bully who can’t fight their own battles. It usually accompanies a virus such as a parainfluenza, distemper, or adenovirus. These are the core vaccines that your vet prompts you to get for your dog annually, bi-annually, or tri-annually with some rabies vaccines. Keeping up with vaccines will help immensely in the protection of your family, particularly kids and other animals.

Let’s get back to it.

Can Kennel Cough Be Transmitted to Humans?

Kennel Cough Transmitted to HumansThe short answer is yes, but only in rare cases where the person in question is severely immunocompromised. Such cases have occurred when the human has had HIV/AIDS, a form of cancer or has had an organ transplant.

In a study, several people with pre-existing conditions were exposed to bordetella bronchiseptica (the kennel cough bacteria). The results ranged from asymptomatic to full-on pneumonia. So you see, it’s a total crapshoot. While kennel cough is transferable to humans, it’s just not likely.

What Are the Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Humans?

The most common symptoms of kennel cough are:

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

Even if you have any or several of these symptoms, it could be a lot of things. Strep throat, Influenza, Bronchitis and Coronavirus share a similar list of symptoms. So hold tight and seek advice from your doctor.

Is Kennel Cough Contagious to Babies?

Kennel Cough Transmitted to Babies

Babies with underdeveloped immune systems are more susceptible in theory, but there isn’t much evidence out there to prove it’s true. However, if you have a newborn and a dog with kennel cough, keep the dog until their symptoms are completely gone.

The frightening thing is that the Bordetella bacteria have a lot of close relatives. One being Bordetella Pertussis which is very contagious to humans, specifically babies. Does pertussis ring a bell? Sounds like something from the depression era, but unfortunately it’s still around.

Let us stress again that it is incredibly rare for a human to get kennel cough from their dog. If you are immunocompromised or a baby, don’t let dogs with coughs lick your face, got it?

What is Bordetella pertussis?

Bordetella pertussis is the bacteria that causes whooping cough in humans. Pertussis is an upper respiratory infection in adults and babies that can lead to a life-threatening condition.

In recent years the cases of whooping cough have nearly tripled in the UK. There is a vaccine available for pertussis, and it’s recommended that parents have their children vaccinated

Like kennel cough, humans can still acquire pertussis even having the vaccination, but symptoms are less severe if the humans have had the vaccination prior to infection.

In extraordinary cases, Bordetella bronchiseptica has been diagnosed as Bordetella pertussis in infants. Don’t get too worried though, this barely ever happens.

In most situations, there isn’t anything to worry about, but it’s smart to air on the side of caution if you have a dog with kennel cough and a newborn. Isolation should do the trick. They just need not come in contact with dog sneezes and coughs.

Can Humans Spread Kennel Cough?

Well, in the rare case that kennel cough is transmitted to a human, the bacteria could be contagious to another human. Kennel cough is transferred through aerosol droplets, so direct or very close contact would be necessary.

Both people would presumably be immunocompromised due to HIV/AIDS, cancer, or an organ transplant. Immunodeficient people such as those of old age and deteriorating health, or very young with underdeveloped immune systems.

What Are Zoonotic Diseases?

Zoonosis refers to germs that are transferable from animal to human. The result is zoonotic diseases. Either bacteria cause them (like kennel cough), parasites, viruses or fungi. Some had ravaged the human race before doctors and scientists realized the diseases were coming from animals.

According to the CDC, 6 out of 10 diseases are zoonotic. You may have heard of swine flu, avian (bird) flu, or the bubonic plague.

The most common zoonotic diseases these days are:

  1. Rabies
  2. Lyme disease
  3. Brucellosis
  4. Salmonellosis
  5. Malaria

Several more exist but you don’t hear of them as often. Check out this fact sheet from the American Biological Safety Association.


Rabies is a virus that can be easily avoided by having your animals vaccinated. Rabies vaccines can range from every one to three years, depending on which brand your vet chooses. If your animals go outside, get them the vaccine.

Transmission is by way of an animal bite or contact with saliva or tissue and causes a plethora of problems in humans and animals. Some symptoms include:

  • headache
  • fever
  • salivation
  • paralysis of the trachea muscles
  • seizures

Rabies is often fatal, but if you catch it right away, it is possible to treat.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a common disease caused by bacteria transmitted by black-legged tick bites. Humans and our furry counterparts are a feast for these suckers.

Ticks are very prevalent in forests and other wooded areas, or places with high grass and weeds. If you and your dog are more of the adventure-seeking, nature explorer types who camp or hike often, get the vaccine for your pup.

Common symptoms of Lyme disease are:

  • fever
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • rash

If Lyme disease is left untreated, it can lead to:

  • heart problems
  • painful and swollen joints
  • damaged nervous system


Brucellosis is caused by bacteria carried by animals like pigs, cattle, goats, sheep and dogs. Brucellosis is transmitted by way of direct contact with the bodily fluids of the infected animals.

Brucellosis is the most common in labs testing on animals, so serves them right! I’m kidding (kind of). It sounds awful, but after testing bone marrow or blood, a doctor can prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection.

Symptoms of Brucellosis include possible infection of

  • bone
  • heart
  • kidney
  • gallbladder
  • spleen

as well as:

  • lesions
  • abscesses
  • high fever


Also referred to as Salmonella, is a bacteria that can be spread by dogs, cats, monkeys, rodents, chicken, reptiles particularly turtles, cattle, and pigs. Salmonella is most often transmitted by consumption of contaminated foods from infected animals.

Common symptoms of Salmonella are:

  • serious headaches
  • high fever
  • spleen enlargement

Salmonella can be treated with antibiotics.


Malaria spawns from a nasty parasite and is transferred by mosquito bites. Though scientists have been working towards a Malaria vaccine for years, there are no great options available as of yet.

Symptoms of Malaria include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • headaches
  • bloody stools
  • jaundice
  • nausea & vomiting
  • convulsions
  • coma
RabiesInfected animal biteHeadache, fever, salivation, paralysis of the trachea muscles, seizuresProactive vaccination
Lyme DiseaseTick biteFever, headache, fatigue, rash

Lyme disease left untreated can lead to:

heart problems, painful and swollen joints, damaged nervous system

MalariaMosquito biteFever, chills, headaches,bloody stools, jaundice, nausea & vomiting, convulsions,comaPain relievers and fever reducers.

Possible intravenous fluids.

BrucellosisConsumption of raw dairy from infected animalsPossible infection of bone, heart, kidney, gallbladder, spleen

as well as:

Lesions, abscesses, and high fever

SalmonellaDirect contact with infected animals or consumption of infected animals or bi-productsSerious headaches, high fever, spleen enlargementRest & relaxation


Most cases clear up with some good ol’ r & r, but it won’t be fun!

Is Kennel Cough Zoonotic?

By definition, kennel cough is zoonotic because while it is infrequent, it can transfer from animals to humans. Animals that can carry kennel cough include:

  • humans
  • primates
  • cats
  • dogs
  • rabbits
  • guinea pigs
  • horses

Can Humans Transmit Kennel Cough to Dogs?

Can Humans Transmit Kennel Cough to DogsYes. In the case that you are one of the few people to contract kennel cough from your infected dog, it is possible to pass the infection back and forth. Isolation is the ticket here.

If you are an immunocompromised person with a kennel cough from your infected dog, I’m so sorry things are so tough for you, sheesh; but you need to isolate yourself and your dog.

Hopefully, you have someone to help you, so you don’t have to get close to the infected animal. You may need to ask friends or family for assistance.

How Long Do Kennel Cough Germs Live?

The bacteria Bordetella Bronchiseptica that causes kennel cough only survives in respiratory secretions for two or three hours. They don’t survive well outside of their host, thank goodness.

Bordetella bacteria is best transmitted straight from the source, via droplets in the air.

What Are the Risks of the Kennel Cough Vaccine to Humans?

Again, kennel cough is so rare in humans there is no vaccine for us, and your vet won’t oblige you if you ask, but in some cases, a freshly vaccinated dog can be a risk to the immunocompromised person.

Severely immunocompromised folks can have adverse reactions to their dog’s vaccines. Vaccines usually have a bit of the live bacteria or virus in them to amp up the immunity. Because of the live virus, it may affect the immunocompromised pet owner negatively.

Of the entire internet, there are only a few cases of this happening. In this case, a woman had an organ transplant several years before. She had recently had her dog vaccinated for kennel cough intranasally, and eventually developed pneumonia.

Isolation Is the Name of the Game

Along with good nutrition, hydration, rest, and a warm and cozy place to sleep; Isolation is one of the most important aspects of dealing with kennel cough in dogs. Isolating your animal will keep the bacteria in a contained space and, in turn, enormously lessen anyone else’s chances of contracting the illness.

If your dog does contract kennel cough, treat them while they are isolated from the rest of the family. I know it’s no fun, but it is vital to everyone’s health, including the dog’s. So go ahead and make the spare bedroom (or wherever) as comfy as possible for the pup and let them stay in there with:

  1. Plenty of food in a fresh, clean bowl.
  2. As much water as they will drink! In a freshly, cleaned dish of course.
  3. Sanitized toys.
  4. Fluffy, soft blankets.
  5. Tender loving care.


We know our dogs better than anyone else. Dogs can’t tell us what’s wrong so it’s up to us to stay aware and proactive.

If you feel like your fur baby is acting out of the ordinary, they probably are. Don’t second guess yourself, but do get a second opinion from your vet as soon as possible.

We know you want the best for your animals, so do we! So we will continue to fill the internet with all of the pertinent information about everything you need to know on kennel cough. Until next time, keep yourself and your furry confidants safe and healthy!