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Can Dogs Get Kennel Cough from Cats?


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Your dog has a persistent cough that sounds a lot like kennel cough, but he hasn't been around any other dogs in months. However, the neighbor does happen to have a cat that they like to board when they go on vacation. Is it possible that your dog might have contracted kennel cough from the neighbor's cat?

If you are like most dog owners, you have probably heard at least something about kennel cough in dogs. But what you might not know is that cats also suffer from this same highly contagious bacterial disease.

In many ways, kennel cough is like a common cold in people in that it displays similar symptoms and is transmitted in much the same manner. The bacteria can be transmitted through the air when a dog or cat coughs or even breathes, by direct contact with an infected animal, or from a contaminated surface like a food or water dish, bedding, the floor, and more.

Can Dogs Get Kennel Cough from Cats?


Kennel cough can be transmitted to your dog by a cat. All it takes is for the infected cat to breathe on, cough on, or touch anything your dog is likely to touch. It's that easy. The good news is there are several vaccines on the market that can reduce your dog's risk of infection.

Does My Dog Have Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is an umbrella term used to describe several forms of viral and bacterial infections that can cause inflammation in your dog's windpipe and voice box. It is very similar in nature to bronchitis in people.


  • A persistent "dry cough" with a barking sound in a dog that otherwise appears to be healthy

  • Occasional gagging or trying to cough something up

  • Coughing accompanied by excessive phlegm that is white and foamy

  • Nasal discharge

  • A fever


There are many ways your dog can catch kennel cough, including:

  • Airborne from another animal such as a dog or cat who is coughing

  • Direct contact dog to dog, dog to cat, or anything that is infected

  • Being in a kennel where the air circulation is bad and conditions are crowded


If for any reason you think your dog might have a case of kennel cough, you need to take him in to see his vet immediately. The problem is there is not an actual test for this condition. Rather determining your dog has kennel cough is more a matter of direct examination to rule out any other possible causes of his persistent cough.

Your vet may check for:

  • Heart disease

  • Heartworm disease

  • A collapsing trachea

  • Cancer

The vet may ask if your dog has recently been: boarded, professionally groomed, to a training school, to a dog show, to a dog park, or anywhere else where he was in close proximity to other dogs or cats.

If you would like more information on kennel cough, visit our guide to Kennel Cough in Dogs .

How Do I Treat My Dog's Kennel Cough?

Treatment for kennel cough varies based on the severity of the condition.


If your dog has nothing more than a mild case, the vet will probably not recommend any medications but will tell you to let the condition run its course much like a human cold.

In the event the condition is more serious, he may recommend a series of antibiotic treatments, along with a cough suppressant (just like your doctor might do for you). In most cases, the condition will run its course in 1 to 2 weeks.

However, if your dog's condition does not improve within two weeks, you should take him back to the vet as it is possible for the kennel cough to become pneumonia, which can be fatal.


In most cases, your dog should recover from kennel cough without treatment within 14 days. If you have other animals, you should quarantine the sick one until he is fully recovered to prevent the spread of this condition to the rest of the animals. Younger puppies, elderly dogs, and those with autoimmune diseases may take up to 3 times as long to recover. Worth noting is that even though your dog may have recovered, he can still be infectious for an extended period of time once his symptoms have gone away.

Check out our guide to Kennel Cough in Dogs for more details and to get advice from our in-house vet.

How is Kennel Cough Similar in Dogs and Cats?

Both dogs and cats exhibit very similar symptoms, including:

  • Persistent Cough

  • Nasal Discharge

  • Lethargy

  • Lack of Appetite

  • Fever

  • Sneezing

  • Discharge from Eyes

How is Kennel Cough in Dogs Different from a Cold in Humans?

The main difference between kennel cough in dogs and the common cold in humans is that current data says humans and dogs cannot pass the virus or bacteria between each other. However, since the bacteria in either is very similar, it still remains possible.

With humans, you can afford to adopt a "wait and see" attitude and let the cold simply run its course. Most vets recommend you have your dog checked out as soon as you notice the first symptoms of kennel cough.

You can easily find a way to give your dog plenty of time to rest and recuperate. Most humans have a schedule that is far too busy to take time out to rest when we have a cold, which only serves to make the symptoms last longer and seem worse.

Case Study

Your family went on a two-week vacation and left the family dog in a local kennel while you were gone. You vetted the boarding kennel very carefully; it looked very clean and well-cared for and the staff, kennels, and yard were spotless. Yet when you picked up your dog and got home, the first thing you noticed was that he was hacking and coughing, something you had never seen before.

After a day or two, the cough continued to persist without getting noticeably worse. A trip to the vet revealed he has a minor case of kennel cough. The vet recommends taking him home, keeping him warm, letting him rest, and keeping him hydrated. After about two weeks, the dog returned to his normal behavior in much the same way you did the last time you had a cold. In most cases, kennel cough will run its course and simply go away on its own.

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