Canine Respiratory Disease

posted: by: Dr. Brenda Armstrong Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Canine Respiratory disease has caught the attention of the media. Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC), aka “Kennel Cough,” is endemic in dogs, with various known causes (e.g. canine parainfluenza virus, Bordetella bronchiseptica, canine respiratory coronavirus, canine pneumovirus, canine influenza virus, Streptococcus zooepidemicus… roughly in that order of occurrence, and maybe the enigmatic Mycoplasma). These are common viruses that have been present for a long time but we can’t confirm the specific cause unless testing is done.

We see Kennel Cough on a regular basis with many dogs not requiring any special testing or medication because it is usually self limiting, while others may need a short course of antibiotics and or cough medications. In the past year, we have only seen 4 dogs (all medium to large breed dogs) that did have more complicated respiratory disease, requiring multiple lung radiographs and extended courses of broad-spectrum antibiotics. These 4 dogs got better on initial antibiotic treatment but just couldn’t kick their cough. Three developed pneumonia that responded to stronger medications and extended duration. The other we performed a bronchoalveolar lung wash on and found no bacteria, but he did have inflammatory cells and responded well to asthma medication.  All 4 are back to normal and doing well.

Kennel cough is not a new disease, but we do see it in clusters and maybe awareness is better since we all experienced COVID. Media and social media can drive outbreak concerns. They can be great to get the word out and help sort out issues, but often, they lead to false alarms and inflation of poor information.

We don’t know if the current media stories reflect a new bacteria or virus, or if it’s a normal occurrence of Kennel Cough being labeled as an “outbreak”. Maybe we are just seeing more cases due to the increase in dog numbers and thus more exposure to disease pathogens through dogs traveling, attending doggie day care, the groomer, or even going to the vets. Those are all place’s dogs need to go to and they shouldn’t be avoided. Some breeds like Frenchies and other short nosed brachycephalic dogs are at higher risk of developing more severe respiratory disease due to their respiratory tract conformation and not necessarily caused by exposure to any bacteria or virus. Older dogs and dogs with immunosuppression are also at higher risk.

If you’re worried about canine respiratory disease:

  • Limit your dog’s contacts, especially transient contacts with dogs of unknown health status (don’t walk them through pet stores even though those stores welcome pets to come in). Dogs can shed respiratory disease before they even look sick themselves, and often don’t look that sick!
  • Keep your dog away from sick dogs
  • If your dog is sick, keep him or her away from other dogs. Reschedule any doggie appointments for at least 2 weeks after they are feeling better. If they need to go to the vets, please keep them in the car and let staff know they have upper respiratory signs (coughing, sneezing, eye or          nasal discharge). Your pet’s exam may be “car side” to limit exposure to other patients.
  • Talk to us about vaccination against canine parainfluenza (which is in our Distemper vaccine) and Bordetella- kennel cough.  

“Kennel Cough” infection usually results in a low-grade fever if any, a mild to severe cough, eye and nasal discharge, lethargy and maybe anorexia. Symptoms usually start a few days to a week after exposure.  Respiratory pathogens are spread through microscopic, aerosolized droplets. Vaccination can either prevent disease or lessen its severity in your dog if exposed, similar to our human flu vaccine.

If you have questions or concerns, please call either of our offices for clarification.