One of the most common canine diseases, kennel cough is mainly seen in dogs that are kept in groups (as in kennels). This respiratory disease is highly contagious and spreads easily, as the infected dog comes in contact with other dogs. Disease-causing pathogens spread through the air, as the infected dog coughs or sneezes. A healthy dog can contract this disease, even through contact with contaminated surfaces. So, dogs can contract kennel cough easily. Being close to dogs, humans too may contract upper respiratory infection.
Can Humans Contract Kennel Cough?
As mentioned above, humans may contract respiratory infection from dogs infected with kennel cough. Earlier, kennel cough was not considered a zoonotic disease (a disease that can spread from animals to humans). Though, there is no conclusive evidence to prove to the contrary, it has now been suggested that humans may develop symptoms of upper respiratory infection, when exposed to dogs with kennel cough. Various cases have been reported so far, but there is no substantial evidence to prove that this flu-like condition in humans, is caused by exposure to dogs with kennel cough.
Possible Human Health Risk Factors
It has been suggested that humans with a weak immune system (like babies and pregnant women) are more prone to contract respiratory infection from dogs with kennel cough. In case of children, who are more involved with pet dogs, chances of infection are very high. Another contention is that unlike viruses, bacteria that cause kennel cough are not species specific. So in case of dogs with kennel cough caused by bacteria like Bordetella bronchiseptica, there are chances of humans contracting respiratory problems from them. In fact, Bordetella bronchiseptica is closely related to the agent, which causes whooping cough in humans.
Kennel cough can be caused by viruses and (or) bacteria, but it has been noted that most cases of kennel cough are caused by the bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica, which infect the windpipe of dogs (bordetellosis). Among the viral agents of this disease, parainfluenza virus is the most common. Dogs with viral kennel cough may also develop bacterial (Bordetella) infection simultaneously.
To conclude, it can be said that there are possibilities that humans contract respiratory problems from dogs with kennel cough. As the disease-causing organisms can easily spread through the air, those who live in close contact with their pets, may develop symptoms similar to kennel cough. Apart from dogs infected with kennel cough, even those who have been vaccinated (against this disease) recently, may carry the organisms that cause respiratory distress in humans. So, it would be safest to isolate the dog, as it can spread the disease for some time, even after the symptoms subside.
As far as dogs are concerned, proper vaccination is one of the methods to prevent kennel cough. But, it may not prove as effective in some cases. Maintaining strict hygiene is another factor that will help you guard your dog against the condition. Cleaning and disinfecting the cages and food/water containers must be done as a part of regular dog care. Also, keep your pets away from infected dogs. In case of infection in your dog, allow him to rest and keep him well hydrated. It is always advisable to take the dog to the vet, for proper diagnosis and treatment. Other pets like cats, rabbits and guinea pigs may also contract this disease from dogs.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.