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Canine Respiratory Disease on the Rise: What You Need to Know

Canine Respiratory Disease on the Rise: What You Need to Know
November 28, 2023

Have you heard the news?

A more severe form of kennel cough is on the rise and owners can help ensure protection with the proper vaccinations and by recognizing symptoms early.

The cause behind a canine infectious respiratory disease that began circulating in Oregon a few months ago remains a mystery. The disease has been reported in several states, including Colorado.

The cases appear to be caused by a virus, but common respiratory diagnostic testing has not been able to conclusively show which virus or bacteria is the cause of the cough. Some common symptoms of the new disease include:

  • Inflammation of the trachea (causing a cough) which may last six weeks or longer and is minimally or not responsive to antibiotics.
  • Chronic pneumonia that is minimally or not responsive to antibiotics.
  • Acute pneumonia that rapidly becomes severe and may lead to serious illness in as little as 24 to 36 hours.

Traditionally, dogs with a mild case of kennel cough can recover quickly after being prescribed cough suppressants or supportive care that focuses on relieving symptoms, which can include fever, coughing, nasal snuffling or discharge, discharge from the eyes, and sneezing.

Dogs with more severe symptoms require further diagnostics, treatments, and supportive care than has historically been the case for “garden variety” kennel cough. 

What should owners do to help keep their pets healthy?

  • Owners should ensure their dogs are fully vaccinated against respiratory diseases that are preventable; these include Bordetella, parainfluenza, and Canine influenza. One reason that the disease spreads so quickly is that it appears that the contagious phase of the illness may already have passed by the time cases are seen by the reporting veterinarians.
  • Owners should make sure to bring dogs to facilities that only accept healthy and vaccinated dogs. If you suspect your pet of being sick or if your dog is exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness, do not bring them around other dogs. This will prevent dogs from unknowingly spreading the illness to other dogs, in case they are contagious. 

What should owners do if they believe their pet has canine infectious respiratory disease?

  • Contact your veterinarian. It’s important that if owners suspect their dog might have a cough or respiratory symptoms they consult with their veterinarian, regardless of the severity of their symptoms in order to understand what steps to take.
  • If your dog has ben around other dogs, such as boarding facility or doggy daycare, owners should take heed of any initial symptoms of respiratory diseases your dog may exhibit following their exposure to other dogs.

Before arriving at the clinic or hospital, owners MUST inform the veterinary team who will be providing their dog's care that the incoming patient has been around other dogs, since kennel cough is contagious. Many times, the veterinary team will examine the dog outside. 

While contagious respiratory disease can have devastating effects, most dogs are very likely to recover fully, especially with the guidance of their veterinarian.

Respiratory diseases can be troubling for dog owners and their furry friends alike. By prioritizing your dog’s respiratory health and remaining vigilant when your dog starts feeling unwell, owners can relax knowing their pet is protected while also protecting other dogs.

Aspen Grove Veterinary Care