Is Whooping Cough the Same as Kennel Cough?

Currently, public health officials, physicians and parents are very concerned about an epidemic of whooping cough in Californian children, reports With over 3400 cases of whooping cough reported in California between Jan 1 and June 10 of this year and over 800 reported in the last two weeks it is clear that there is an outbreak of this devastating, primarily childhood, disease. With whooping cough forefront in the news, pet parents may naturally start to wonder if it affects their dogs the way it does people.

Does my dog need to worry about whooping cough?
According to, whooping cough, or pertussis as it is referred to by physicians, “is a human bacterium. It does not infect animals.” Therefore, you won’t need to worry about this very contagious bacteria (Bordetella pertussis [CDC]) when you hear your dog coughing. However, that’s not to say that a dog cough should be ignored.

What is the difference between whooping cough and kennel cough?
Many dog owners are familiar with the canine cough complex commonly referred to as “kennel cough,” which causes harsh coughing in infected dogs. It’s caused by bacteria called Bordetella broncheiseptica, which is actually related to the organism that causes whooping cough in humans (Bordetella pertussis), but the two are not the same.

It is important to recognize that though they sound somewhat similar and produce similar diseases, kennel cough very rarely causes disease in humans.

Can dogs play a role in the transmission of whooping cough?
While it is technically possible, it’s not likely, says wormsandgerms, because dogs don’t actually become infected with the organism. Still, they could come in contact with it (on their haircoats, for instance) and indirectly spread the infection without being infected themselves. Overall, the risks are very low though. We don't generally need to fear dogs as potential whooping cough vectors.

Prevention of kennel cough and whooping cough
In both kennel cough and whooping cough the most important factor is prevention. Vaccination does not impart lifelong immunity but at the very least it reduces the severity of infections. Effective vaccination against whooping cough involves a series of vaccinations in babies along with vaccinating expectant mothers and children to boost their immunity, according to CDC.

Dogs should be vaccinated against kennel cough at yearly intervals. Click here for more on dog vaccinations.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Is Whooping Cough the Same as Kennel Cough? - pets

Kennel Cough


“Kennel cough” is an infectious bronchitis of dogs characterized by a harsh, hacking cough which most people describe as sounding like “something stuck in my dog’s throat.” This bronchitis may be of brief duration and mild enough to warrant no treatment at all or it may progress all the way to a life-threatening pneumonia depending on which infectious agents are involved and the immunological strength of the patient. An uncomplicated kennel cough runs a course of a week or two and entails frequent fits of coughing in a patient who otherwise feels active and normal. Uncomplicated cases do not involve fever or listlessness, just lots of coughing.

(original graphic by

Numerous organisms may be involved in a case of kennel cough it would be unusual for only one agent to be involved. Infections with the following organisms frequently occur concurrently to create a case of kennel cough:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (bacteria)
  • Parainfluenza Virus
  • Adenovirus Type 2
  • Canine Distemper Virus
  • Canine Influenza Virus
  • Canine Herpesvirus (very young puppies)
  • Mycoplasma canis (a single-cell organism that is neither virus nor bacterium)
  • Canine Reovirus
  • Canine Respiratory Coronavirus

The classical combination for uncomplicated kennel cough is infection with Parainfluenza or Adenovirus Type 2 in combination with Bordetella bronchiseptica. Infections involving the distemper virus, Mycoplasma species, or canine influenza are more prone to progressing to pneumonia but pneumonia can readily result in any dog or puppy that is sufficiently young, stressed, or debilitated.


Dogs can make an assortment of respiratory sounds. Usually a cough is very recognizable but it is important to be aware of another sound called a “reverse sneeze.” The reverse sneeze is often mistaken for a cough, for a choking fit, for sneezing, for retching, or even for some sort of respiratory distress. In fact, the reverse sneeze represents a post-nasal drip or “tickle in the throat.” It is considered normal especially for small dogs or dogs and only requires attention if it is felt to be “excessive.” The point here is to know a cough when you see one. A cough can be dry or “productive,” meaning it is followed by a gag, swallowing motion, production of foamy mucus (not to be confused with vomiting). Here are some videos that might help:

Note: we have received a great deal of eMail from people who have viewed this video,
compared it to what their own dog is doing and concluded their dog has Kennel Cough.
This video is meant to demonstrate coughing in general. It is important to note that there
are many causes of coughing and the nature of the cough does not generally reflect on its cause.



The infected dog sheds infectious bacteria and/or viruses in respiratory secretions. These secretions become aerosolized and float in the air to be inhaled by a healthy dog. Obviously, crowded housing and suboptimal ventilation play important roles in the likelihood of transmission but organisms may also be transmitted on toys, food bowls or other objects.

Depiction of Mucociliary Escalator.
(original graphic by

The normal respiratory tract has substantial safeguards against invading infectious agents. The most important of these is probably what is called the “mucociliary escalator.” This safeguard consists of tiny hair-like structures called “cilia”, which protrude from the cells lining the respiratory tract, and extend into a coat of mucus over them. The cilia beat in a coordinated fashion through the lower and more watery mucus layer called the “sol.” A thicker mucus layer called the “gel” floats on top of the sol. Debris, including infectious agents, get trapped in the sticky gel and the cilia move them upward towards the throat where the collection of debris and mucus may be coughed up and/or swallowed.

The mucociliary escalator is damaged by the following:

  • Shipping stress
  • Crowding stress
  • Heavy dust exposure
  • Cigarette smoke exposure
  • Infectious agents (as listed previously).
  • Cold temperature
  • Poor ventilation

Without this a fully functional mucociliary escalator, invading bacteria, especially Bordetella bronchiseptica, the chief agent of Kennel Cough, may simply march down the airways unimpeded.

Bordetella bronchiseptica organisms have some tricks of their own as well:

  • They are able to bind directly to cilia, rendering them unable to move within 3 hours of contact.
  • They secrete substances that disable the immune cells normally responsible for consuming & destroying bacteria.

Classically, dogs get infected when they are kept in a crowded situation with poor air circulation but lots of warm air (i.e. a boarding kennel, vaccination clinic, obedience class, local park, animal shelter, animal hospital waiting room, or grooming parlor). In reality, most causes of coughing that begin acutely in the dog are due to infectious causes and usually represent some form of Kennel Cough.



Usually the history of exposure to a crowd of dogs within the proper time frame plus typical examination findings (coughing dog that otherwise feels well) is adequate to make the diagnosis. Radiographs show bronchitis and are particularly helpful in determining if a complicating pneumonia is present.

Recently, PCR (polymerase chain reaction) panels have become available in many reference laboratories. Using technology to amplify the presence of DNA in a swab, the lab is able to test for the presence of most of the kennel cough infectious agents listed. This knowledge is helpful in guiding therapy and understanding expectations.

A coughing dog that has a poor appetite, fever, and/or listlessness should be evaluated for pneumonia.


An uncomplicated case of Kennel Cough will go away by itself. Cough suppressants can improve patient comfort while the infection is resolving. The dog should be clearly improved if not recovered after about a week. That said, several infectious agents in the Kennel Cough complex are more intense and can cause a minor bronchitis to progress to pneumonia which is a potentially life-threatening disease. Given this possibility, antibiotics are frequently prescribed to Kennel Cough patients to prevent or curtail pneumonia before it warrants hospitalization.

It is important to distinguish an uncomplicated case of Kennel Cough from one complicated by pneumonia for obvious reasons. The uncomplicated cases will not have fever or appetite loss and they will not be listless. As mentioned, they will seem normal except for coughing. Dogs with pneumonia appear sick. For more information on pneumonia, click here.


Vaccination is only available for: Bordetella bronchiseptica, Canine Adenovirus Type 2, Canine Parainfluenza virus, Canine Distemper, and Canine Influenza. Infections with other members of the Kennel Cough complex cannot be prevented. Vaccine against Adenovirus Type 2, Parainfluenza, and Canine Distemper is generally included in the basic puppy series and subsequent boosters (the DHPP or "distemper-parvo shot." For Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccination can either be given as a separate injection or as a nasal immunization. There is some controversy regarding which method provides a better immunization or if a combination of both formats is best.


Intranasal vaccination may be given as early as 3 weeks of age and immunity generally lasts 12-13 months. The advantage here is that the local immunity is stimulated, right at the site where the natural infection would be trying to take hold.

It takes 4 days to generate a solid immune response after intranasal vaccination so it is best if vaccination is given at least 4 days prior to the exposure. Some dogs will have some sneezing or nasal discharge in the week following intranasal vaccination this should clear up on its own. As a general rule, nasal vaccination provides faster immunity than injectable vaccination.

Nasal vaccines for Bordetella generally also include vaccine against Parainfluenza virus and some also include vaccine against Adenovirus Type 2.

(original graphic by


As of 2012, an oral vaccine has become available for Bordetella bronchiseptica (but not adenovirus or parainfluenza). The idea is that it is easier to give the vaccine in the mouth (just inside the cheek) and there is no concern about sneezing out some of the vaccine. The oral vaccine can be given to puppies as young as 8 weeks of age. The vaccine is given annually.


Injectable vaccination is a good choice for aggressive dogs, who may bite if their muzzle is approached. For puppies, injectable vaccination provides good systemic immunity as long as two doses are given (approximately one month apart) after age 4 months. Boosters are generally given annually. Some dogs experience a small lump under the skin at the injection site. This should resolve without treatment.


Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccination may not prevent infection.
In some cases, vaccination minimizes symptoms of illness but does not entirely prevent infection.
This is true whether nasal or injectable vaccine is used.

Dogs that have recovered from Bordetella bronchiseptica
are typically immune to reinfection for 6-12 months.


As previously noted, this infection is generally self-limiting. It should be at least improved partially after one week of treatment. If no improvement has been observed in this time, a re-check exam (possibly including radiographs of the chest) would be a good idea. Failure of Kennel Cough to resolve suggests an underlying condition. Kennel Cough can activate a previously asymptomatic collapsing trachea or the condition may have progressed to pneumonia. Alternatively, there may be another disease afoot entirely such as non-infectious bronchitis, congestive heart failure, or some other condition that causes cough.

If you have questions about a coughing dog, do not hesitate to bring them to your veterinarian, or click the “Ask the Vet” function below.

Kennel Cough

Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease.

Canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD), formerly called canine tracheobronchitis or kennel cough , is a highly contagious group of infectious diseases characterized clinically by an acute onset of coughing notably exacerbated by exercise. The term is nonspecific, much like the “common cold” in human beings or bovine respiratory disease complex (BRDC) in cattle. The infection occurs commonly as a result of mixing dogs from different origins such as occurs at commercial kennels, animal shelters, and veterinary clinics. Between bouts of coughing, most animals appear normal, although some have rhinitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, or conjunctivitis some with secondary pneumonia become quite ill.

The pathogenesis of CIRD is complex, and many pathogens and environmental factors have been incriminated. Bordetella bronchiseptica, canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2), and canine parainfluenza virus-2 (CPIV-2) are most commonly implicated. The severity of the disease is increased when more than one agent is involved or if there are extreme environmental conditions (e.g., poor ventilation). For example, dogs asymptomatically infected with Bordetella bronchiseptica are more severely affected by superinfection with CAV-2 than those not carrying the bacterium. Other agents are sometimes isolated but of lesser significance and include canine adenovirus-1 (CAV-1: infectious canine hepatitis virus), reovirus type 1, canid herpesvirus-1 (CaHV-1), canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV), and Mycoplasma species.

Depending on the agents involved, gross and microscopic lesions are completely absent or they vary from catarrhal to mucopurulent tracheobronchitis, with enlargement of the tonsils and retropharyngeal and tracheobronchial lymph nodes. In dogs with Bordetella bronchiseptica infection, the lesions are suppurative or mucopurulent rhinitis and tracheobronchitis, and suppurative bronchiolitis. In contrast, when lesions are purely viral, microscopic changes are focal necrosis of the tracheobronchial epithelium. Sequelae can include spread either proximally or distally in the respiratory tract, the latter sometimes inducing chronic bronchitis and bronchopneumonia.

What You Really Need To Know About Kennel Cough

We have seen a massive influx of calls, messages and appointment requests lately from owners worrying that their dog has contracted Kennel Cough… Being your pet care professionals, we decided it was time for an educational PSA about this infamous Kennel Cough.

Helllllooooo Spring! With moisture in the air, new plants starting to spout, bacteria thriving in this Spring weather, brings on a lot of itchy, scratchy, throat tickling, coughing pets. About 40% of the worried owners coming into Pawsh thinking their pets have contracted Kennel Cough, they are actually experiencing seasonal allergies! Yes, just like humans, pets are affected by seasonal changes too, yuck!

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get into some Kennel Cough facts.

Kennel cough is an all-encompassing term used to depict a multitude of highly contagious respiratory illness. Kennel cough, scientifically known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is easily spread from dog to dog through aerosol droplets, direct contact, or contact with contaminated surfaces like food and water bowls, toys, or kennel runs — a bit like how the common cold is spread in child daycare. Your dog is most likely to pick it up in an area where lots of dogs congregate, but they can also pick it up from any contaminated environment, and you can bring it home to him if you spend a lot of time around dogs at work or during volunteer opportunities.

DO NOT WORRY, Kennel Cough itself is not fatal but in rare cases, the virus could lead to bronchopneumonia in puppies and chronic bronchitis in senior or immunocompromised dogs, so it is very important to get your dog checked if they have any of these symptoms:

  1. Coughing – very strong, often with a “honking” noise
  2. Hacking up “white foam”
  3. Sneezing
  4. Lethargy
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Low fever

Bordetella is the vaccine your dog will receive when they get their first puppy shots to help boost their immunity from the Kennel Cough virus. Since Kennel Cough is HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS it is recommended that your dog will need to get it re-administered every single year.

The tricky thing about the Bordetella vaccine, just like the human Flu vaccine, is that it does not protect against all strains of the bacteria found in some Kennel Cough cases. Which is why your dog can contract Kennel Cough even though he/she is currently vaccinated. Your dog IS protected from the Bordetella bacterial infection with this vaccine, which is the most contagious upper respiratory infection caused but is not protected from the wide range of them all.

If your dog does contract Kennel Cough, your vet will prescribe antibiotics in order to prevent a secondary bacterial infection, and to not to evolve into the more serious conditions like having decreased appetite & high fever. Kennel cough symptoms start about 5 days after being exposed to the virus and lasts around 1 week… but it is then recommended not to go anywhere with your pup for 1 more week after that. Humans know that when they have a cold, to prevent it from becoming more serious, we need to rest, eat more and stay hydrated… your dog on the other hand, doesn’t know any better.

A responsible boarding and grooming facility will require your dog to have a current Bordetella vaccine (along with other vaccines) in order to receive their services. The experienced staff should also be asking all pet owners if their pets’ have been experiencing any symptoms of Kennel Cough during the time of check-in. Every facility should also have a bacterial disinfection protocol in place and you as an owner should feel confident in asking what exactly that is. This, however, does not mean your pet will never be at risk for contracting Kennel Cough. Every time you take your pet out in the community, they are at risk for contracting an upper respiratory disease just like we are. But this risk is more unlikely to happen if your pet care facility requires all pets to be currently vaccinated and if all owners are being 100% honest of their pet’s recent health history.

If you are concerned that your pet is experiencing any symptoms listed above, please contact your pet care professional and have your pet seen!

Pertussis is a very contagious disease only found in humans. Pertussis spreads from person to person. People with pertussis usually spread the disease to another person by coughing or sneezing or when spending a lot of time near one another where you share breathing space. Many babies who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents, or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.

Infected people are most contagious up to about 2 weeks after the cough begins. Antibiotics may shorten the amount of time someone is contagious.

While pertussis vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent this disease, no vaccine is 100% effective. When pertussis circulates in the community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch this disease. If you have gotten the pertussis vaccine but still get sick, the infection is usually not as bad.

Watch the video: Infant girl with whooping cough (October 2021).

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