Can Bronchitis Transfer From a Dog to a Human?

Kennel cough is for dogs, not people.
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A disease that can transfer from an animal to human is called a zoonotic illness. There are a variety of zoonotic diseases, ranging from parasites to viruses, and some are easier to catch than others. If your pup has a cough, don't worry that you'll catch his bronchitis. That's one illness he'll keep to himself.

Canine Bronchitis

Dogs can suffer from two types of bronchitis: chronic and acute bronchitis. If Duke has chronic bronchitis, his airways are inflamed, causing a dry, harsh cough. He may get excited or breathless with exercise, prompting him to cough -- sometimes accompanied by gagging, retching and produce foamy saliva. Chronic bronchitis is usually not infectious and triggered by environmental irritants, such as dust and smoke. Irritants also can trigger acute bronchitis, but usually it's caused by infectious agents such as bacteria or viruses. In such cases, it's often referred to as kennel cough, though it's known formally as canine infectious tracheobronchitis.

Catching Bronchitis

If Duke's bronchitis is infectious, it's contagious to other dogs. He'll shed the infectious agents when he coughs and they'll float in the air to be inhaled by other dogs. He can also share the infection via infected toys or food bowls. There's a reason canine infectious tracheobronchitis is called kennel cough; it's easy to pick up the infection in a crowded environment with poor ventilation and warm air, such as a boarding kennel. Other opportunities for infection include dog parks, veterinary clinics, animal shelters and obedience classes.

Treating and Preventing Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis often goes away on its own, though vets often use antibiotics to treat the infection. Cough suppressants also can help in recovery. When it's time to board Duke, chances are good the kennel will require a Bordetella vaccine to help keep kennel cough at bay. Other infectious agents causing acute bronchitis, such as parainfluenza and adenovirus are part of routine vaccinations Duke probably receives as part of his regular vet exams. Chronic bronchitis is more difficult to treat since it's usually not triggered by an infectious agent. It's rare for this type of bronchitis to completely disappear, but the vet will work toward minimizing Duke's coughing spells. Corticosteroids reduce the inflammation in his airways and bronchodilators sometimes help relax his airways, allowing air to flow in and out of his lungs easier. The vet also may prescribe a cough suppressant to help alleviate his cough.

From Your Pup to You

Though you can't catch Duke's bronchitis, there are some illnesses he can share with you. Diseases shared via parasites include giardiasis and roundworm. Despite the name, ringworm's not a parasite, but a fungus easily spread from animals to humans. Leptospirosis, salmonellosis and Lyme disease are bacterial illnesses that can be passed from your pup to you. Though it's possible to pick up a disease from Duke, it's fairly unusual, especially by exercising a little common sense. Wash your hands thoroughly after playing with your pup and particularly after picking up his poop. If he spends time in the yard, do a regular walk around to pick up after him so you or the kids don't track his poo into the house. Some parasites live on long after his poop does, contaminating the soil, grass or sand if allowed to sit.