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Can Dogs Get Respiratory Infections From Cats?


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Are you lucky enough to live in a house full of fun loving, mess creating pets? If so, they probably feel like essential members of the family. But can those essential family members catch the same illnesses as you and each other? Take a respiratory infection, otherwise known as a common cold, or kennel cough in dogs and cats. It can leave individuals in pain, discomfort and hamper their day to day life. Handling such an infection requires caution as the bacterial infection is highly contagious. But could your dog catch a respiratory infection from your cat?

Can Dogs Get Respiratory Infections From Cats?


People may think because dogs usually catch respiratory infections or kennel cough from kennels, that it must come from dogs. But, in actual fact, dogs absolutely can catch the infection from cats too! Read on to better understand the symptoms, how the infection spreads, and the treatment options.

Does My Dog Have A Respiratory Infection?

If your dog has kennel cough, there will usually be several telling symptoms to keep an eye out for. Does your dog have a persistent, dry cough? Does your dog keep gagging? Can you see nasal discharge? Do the symptoms worsen when your dog exercises or you are pulling at the collar? Has your dog’s appetite decreased and does he appear lethargic? All of these could be indicators that your dog is suffering with kennel cough.

But what causes kennel cough and how could your cat transmit the infection? The two most common causative agents of kennel cough are the Parainfluenza virus and the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria. These viral and bacterial agents can be spread through direct contact with contaminated animals or objects, like your cat. Usually though, your dog will contract kennel cough from a kennel, animal shelters, dog spas, dog parks, or other boarding facilities.

In order to diagnose a respiratory infection, your vet will undertake a physical examination, where they will listen to the lungs and coughing. They will also look for signs of fever and nasal discharge. They will also want to talk through their history with you to identify when exposure likely took place. For further information about respiratory infections, check out our guide to Parainfluenza Virus Infection in dogs.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Respiratory Infection?

Treatment will depend on the severity of symptoms. If the condition is relatively mild, oral cough suppressants may be prescribed. A humidifier at home may also be suggested to provide your dog with some relief. A bronchodilator medication could also be used to help expand your dog’s airways. Using a harness instead of a collar may also put less pressure on the throat and prevent unnecessary irritation.

If the symptoms are more severe, antibiotics and aerosol therapy may be prescribed. Both of these treatment options will help fight the infection quickly and provide your dog with some relief. Check up appointments each week will likely be required if the case is serious.

On the whole, you could expect your dog to be recovered in approximately 3-5 weeks, however, young puppies may take up to 6 weeks. It is worth remembering though, that the infection can be contagious for up to 14 weeks after symptoms are gone, so try to keep minimal contact between your dog and other pets.

It can be useful to read first-hand accounts from other owners, plus read answered frequently asked questions from our in-house vets. For more details, check out Kennel Cough in Dogs.

How Are Respiratory Infections Similar In Dogs and Humans?

You can see a lot of similarities in the symptoms of respiratory infections in dogs and people. Some of the most noticeable similarities include:

  • In both dogs and humans, a persistent dry cough could indicate the presence of an infection.

  • Both dogs and humans may appear lethargic and uninterested in their usual day to day activities.

  • Dogs and humans may both have visible signs of a fever.

  • The symptoms may worsen when individuals participate in exercise.

  • Difficulty breathing is a common symptom in both of respiratory infections.

  • Both dogs and humans may lose their appetite.

How Are Respiratory Infections Different In Dogs and Humans?

While there are a number of similarities, we also see striking differences in the way symptoms manifest themselves. Some of the differences worth highlighting are as follows:

  • It is common for dogs to cough up white foam, this is a symptom seen far less in humans.

  • Humans will often lose their voice or develop a raspy croaking twang to their voice. This symptom is seen far less in dogs.

  • Humans often report mild headaches when they have a respiratory infection, it is less clear whether dogs suffer from this symptom too.

Case Study

Bam-Bam was a 12-year-old Boston terrier whose owner became concerned for his health. Bam-bam developed a hacking cough and appeared in visible discomfort. It would often strike when he got excited. He also had difficulty breathing and his sleep pattern became erratic. The vet prescribed a course of antibiotics and aerosol therapy, but the cough still took 6 weeks to completely disappear. But the striking thing about this case is that the family cat also had a respiratory infection and after discussions with the vet, it became apparent there was a good chance Bam-Bam caught the infection of the family cat!

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