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Can humans catch kennel cough from dogs, and if so, how do we treat it?

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that primarily affects dogs. It is caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria, such as the canine parainfluenza virus, canine adenovirus, and Bordetella bronchiseptica. While kennel cough is primarily a canine disease, there have been rare cases where humans have acquired the infection. However, it is important to note that human-to-human transmission of kennel cough is extremely rare.

Transmission of Kennel Cough to Humans


The transmission of kennel cough from dogs to humans is uncommon but possible. It usually occurs when an individual has close and prolonged contact with an infected dog, particularly in environments with poor ventilation or crowded conditions. For example, veterinary staff, dog trainers, or individuals living in households with infected dogs may be at a slightly higher risk of acquiring the infection. The bacteria and viruses responsible for kennel cough can be present in the respiratory secretions of infected dogs, and transmission can occur through direct inhalation or contact with contaminated surfaces.

Symptoms and Diagnosis


In humans, the symptoms of kennel cough are similar to those of a common cold or mild respiratory infection. These include a persistent cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, mild fever, and occasionally, a headache. Symptoms typically appear within a few days of exposure to an infected dog. In most cases, the symptoms are mild and resolve on their own without any specific treatment.

However, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis, as the symptoms of kennel cough can overlap with other respiratory infections. The doctor may take a detailed medical history, conduct a physical examination, and order tests, such as a throat swab, to confirm the presence of the infection.

Treatment and Prevention


In general, the treatment for kennel cough in humans is supportive, focusing on relieving the symptoms and allowing the body’s immune system to combat the infection naturally. Recommendations for managing kennel cough in humans include:

  1. Rest and Hydration: Getting adequate rest is crucial for recovery, and staying hydrated helps soothe the throat and alleviate cough symptoms.
  2. Over-the-Counter Medications: Over-the-counter cough suppressants or throat lozenges may provide relief from cough and sore throat symptoms. However, it is important to follow the instructions and consult a healthcare professional if symptoms persist or worsen.
  3. Good Hygiene Practices: Frequent handwashing with soap and water, especially after contact with an infected dog, can help reduce the risk of transmission. Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth, to minimize the chances of self-inoculation.
  4. Environmental Cleaning: Disinfecting surfaces that may have come into contact with respiratory secretions from infected dogs can help reduce the risk of transmission.
  5. Avoiding Exposure: If you suspect that a dog may have kennel cough, it is advisable to limit close contact until the dog has fully recovered to minimize the risk of transmission.

Prevention is key when it comes to kennel cough. Vaccination is available for dogs to protect them against the most common pathogens involved in kennel cough. Ensuring that your dog is up to date on vaccinations and maintaining good overall health can significantly reduce the risk of infection. Additionally, practicing good hygiene and taking precautions when in contact with infected dogs can help minimize the chances of transmission to humans.

In conclusion, while it is rare, humans can catch kennel cough from infected dogs. The symptoms are usually mild and self-limiting, and most cases can be managed with supportive care. However, if you suspect you have contracted kennel cough, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate guidance regarding treatment and management.

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