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The Mysterious Canine Respiratory Disease

By December 12, 2023 Blog

We are sure that you have heard about the mysterious canine respiratory disease that is sweeping the nation and you probably want some answers. The cause of this infectious canine respiratory disease is still under investigation. The most common respiratory diagnostic tests have been largely negative for the known organisms that cause coughing in dogs.  

Respiratory diseases have always been present in dogs, and the recent outbreak is just like other outbreaks we have seen in the past. While you may commonly hear the term “kennel cough”, many organisms can cause a cough in dogs. Veterinarians prefer the acronym CIRDC. The canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC) is a highly contagious illness that affects the respiratory tract in dogs. It is also referred to as infectious tracheobronchitis. The term tracheobronchitis describes the location of the infection in the trachea (windpipe) and bronchial tubes. Several viruses and bacteria can cause CIRDC, often simultaneously. These organisms include adenovirus type-2, parainfluenza virus, canine coronavirus, and the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. Because the infection spreads when dogs are housed together, it is often noticed soon after dogs spend time in kennels, hence the name kennel cough.  

It is not yet known which bacteria or virus is causing this new outbreak. As explained by Scott Weese from Worms and Germs, it is not known if this “mysterious” respiratory illness is caused by a new pathogen or an existing pathogen that has changed over time. 

What we know about the new outbreak: 

This respiratory illness started in Oregon just a few months ago.  According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the cases for this illness have been found with these clinical symptoms: 

  • Chronic mild to moderate inflammation of the trachea lasting six to eight weeks or longer, which is minimally or not responsive to antibiotics.  
  • Chronic pneumonia that is minimally or not responsive to antibiotics. 
  • Acute pneumonia that rapidly becomes severe and often leads to poor outcomes in as little as 24 to 36 hours. 

So far, cases have been seen in the following states: 

  • California 
  • Colorado 
  • Florida 
  • Georgia 
  • Idaho 
  • Illinois 
  • Indiana 
  • Maryland 
  • Massachusetts 
  • New Hampshire 
  • Oregon 
  • Rhode Island 
  • Vermont 
  • Washington 

What can you do to protect your dog: 

  • Ensure your dog is fully vaccinated. Vaccines that protect against respiratory diseases in dogs are the Bordetella vaccine, Distemper vaccine, and Canine Influenza vaccine.  
  • Avoid high risk situations for your dog such as boarding kennels and dog parks.  
  • Call your veterinarian if you believe your pet is sick.  

If your dog is showing any signs of respiratory disease, contact your veterinarian. 

Signs of Respiratory Disease: 

  • Coughing 
  • Sneezing 
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Lethargy 
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes 
  • Labored breathing 

Vaccinations For Respiratory Diseases

Bordetella bronchiseptica Vaccine (Kennel Cough) 

Kennel cough is a broad term often used to describe any infectious or contagious condition in dogs where coughing is one of the major clinical signs but remember, veterinarians prefer to use the more accurate term CIRDC. Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterial infection that can reduce the trachea’s ability to clear debris and make a dog more prone to other organisms as well.  

Make sure your pup is up to date on their kennel cough vaccination. Our veterinary practice currently administers the intra-nasal kennel cough vaccination. This vaccine has shown to be effective against canine adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bronchiseptica. 

Canine Influenza Vaccine 

Canine influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that can infect both dogs and cats. There are currently two strains of the canine influenza virus that have been identified in the United States: H3N8 and H3N2.  

While a bivalent flu vaccine protects your dog from both influenza strains, there have been major shortages in the bivalent flu vaccine for canines. According to Scott Weese from Worms and Germs, the strain we in the United States should worry the most about is the H3N2 strain. A monovalent influenza vaccine would be perfectly acceptable for your pup.  

Canine Adenovirus Type 2 

Canine adenovirus type 2 is a causative agent of canine infectious respiratory disease. Symptoms that are typically seen with this diagnosis are: dry/hacking cough, retching, sneezing, watery nasal discharge. In more severe cases a fever, lethargy, appetite decrease, or pneumonia may occur. 

Vaccinating your dog with a distemper vaccine or an intra-nasal Bordetella are both great ways to protect against canine adenovirus type 2. The distemper vaccination also protects against parainfluenza, parvovirus, and distemper. 

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Celine Mazzella

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