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4 min read

Can Dogs Get Whooping Cough?


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There is nothing worse than that tickling at the back of your throat that you know is going to turn into a horrible, long lasting, dry and painful cough. One such condition that causes that is whooping cough. It is highly contagious, comes from the Bordetella pertussis bacterium and can even cause death! As it is so contagious, handling whooping cough with caution and medical intervention is an absolute must. But can your dog get whooping cough too?

Can Dogs Get Whooping Cough?


People may assume, because whooping cough is highly contagious, that dogs can catch it too. However, dogs absolutely cannot contract whooping cough from humans. Instead, if your dog is displaying similar symptoms, they could well have kennel cough instead. This is a name given to a number of respiratory infections (tracheobronchitis) that cause coughing. It is generally still contagious among dogs, but it is a less serious condition than whooping cough in humans.

Does My Dog Have Kennel Cough?

If you are worried your dog may have kennel cough, then look out for these symptoms. Does your dog have a persistent, dry cough? Can you see visible nasal discharge? Has your dog lost his appetite and any weight? Is he displaying any other fever-like symptoms? All of these could be signs your dog is suffering with kennel cough.

What causes these respiratory infections though? The most common cause is the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium. This highly contagious bacteria can be contracted from direct contact with infected dogs and objects, including beds, toys and food. So if your dog has recently been in kennels or another densely canine populated area, they could well have contracted kennel cough.

When you take your dog to the vets, how will they diagnose the condition? Your vet will start with a physical examination, listening to the lungs, coughing and looking for nasal discharge. They will also want to run through the dog’s recent history, to try and identify where they could have picked up an infection.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Kennel Cough?

The treatment will depend on the severity of the case and the underlying infection responsible. In mild cases, oral cough suppressants will be prescribed and a humidifier at home will be recommended, to help give your dog some relief. You may also have to stop using a collar for a while to reduce strain on the throat. Antibiotics may also be prescribed if the condition is mild to moderate.

Recovery from mild to moderate kennel cough is usually relatively swift. In just 3 weeks, many dogs will be fully recovered and no follow up appointment will be needed.

If the case is more severe, more aggressive treatment may be required. Your vet may wish to prescribe bronchodilators, aerosol therapy, and a course of antibiotics. These will all attempt to relieve the dog’s airways and fight the infection head on.

In more severe cases, or in cases which affected dogs are puppies or are older, with compromised immune systems, recovery may take much longer. It could take anything from several weeks to months. However, ensuring your dog rests and follows the vet’s advice and treatment will go a long way to speeding up the recovery process.

For first hand accounts from other owners, plus frequent asked questions answered by our in-house vets, read our guide to Kennel Cough in Dogs.

How Is Kennel Cough In Dogs Similar to Whooping Cough In Humans?

Respiratory infections such as kennel cough have a lot of similar symptoms to the respiratory infections like whooping cough seen in humans. Some of those similarities are:

> A dry, persistent cough is a symptom of respiratory infections seen in both dogs and humans.
> Both dogs and humans may display fever-like symptoms when suffering with respiratory infections.
> There may be visible nasal discharge in both dogs and humans that are suffering with kennel cough and whooping cough.
> Both dogs and humans may lose their appetite and some weight when suffering with a respiratory infection.

How Is Kennel Cough In Dogs Different than Whooping Cough In Humans?

While there are a lot of similarities in the symptoms of respiratory infections seen in dogs, humans and other animals, there are some differences too. Some of the most noticeable differences are:

> Whooping cough in humans can cause a person’s face to go red in color from coughing. Kennel cough does not do this to dogs.
> Young children or babies may struggle to breathe with whooping cough. Kennel cough does not usually have such a serious effect on dogs.
> Whooping cough can kill humans, whereas kennel cough is very rarely fatal to dogs.

Case Study

Blaze was a 2-year-old dog when he developed a nasty cough that seemed to progressively get worse. The understandably concerned owner took him to the vets, where after discussions the vet ascertained that Blaze had recently stayed in kennels, so probably caught an infection there. He was given oral cough suppressants and antibiotics and the owner swapped a lead for a harness to ease the strain on Blaze’s throat. In just less than a month Blaze was fit and well again. But this case does demonstrate how contagious respiratory infections can be, especially in densely populated canine places, such as kennels.

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