What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is an infectious respiratory disease seen most often in dogs. It can be contracted by other companion species, including cats, but those instances are more rare.

The scientific name for kennel cough is canine infectious tracheobronchitis. Puppies age 6 weeks to 6 months are particularly vulnerable, but a dog of any age can come down with this illness.

There is no conveyed immunity following a bout of kennel cough, so a dog can have it more than once during their lives, just as humans suffer periodically from colds and upper respiratory infections.

A combination of simultaneous infectious agents can be responsible for a case of kennel cough. The major viral causes are, in order of prevalence: 

– canine parainfluenza virus

– canine adenovirus 2 (canine distemper virus)

– canine adenovirus 1

Bacterial agents prominent in kennel cough infections include: 

– bordetella bronchiseptica (the most common)

– streptococcus

– pasteurella

– pseudomonas

– e. coli

– mycoplasma

It is highly debatable whether kennel cough is zoonotic, meaning that humans can catch it from their companion animals.

Bordetella bronchiseptica is zoonotic on rare occasions in very young children, the elderly, or individuals with a compromised immune system.

Kennel cough is, however, simply a form of bronchitis, which is contagious, so in theory, it could be passed to humans. It is more likely that if a human were to be infected from a dog it would be via a bacterial agent rather than a virus, but there is no evidence to suggest this is the case.

A dog with kennel cough can pass the infection to cats, rabbits, pigs and guinea pigs, but this occurs only rarely.