Pet Health Tips

Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex

What is this new respiratory illness I am hearing about on the news?

We are aware of a recent increased number of canine respiratory cases that are not responding to antibiotic treatment. At this time, we suspect Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) is the underlying cause. At our practices in Wisconsin, we have confirmed CIV as the cause in multiple dogs.

In recent months, large groups of dogs have become affected with coughing, fever, pneumonia, and in rare cases, death from respiratory failure. These viruses and bacteria spread easily dog to dog in confined areas such as grooming parlors, doggie daycares, and dog events. This spreads through coughing, sneezing, barking, shared water and food dishes, and likely on humans clothing, hands, and shoes.

Should I be worried about Canine CIV?

Yes, this is a concern because there is no effective specific treatment against canine CIV and it can result in severe pneumonia or even death. It is highly contagious and most of the canine population is not vaccinated against CIV. The only treatment we have is supportive care – antibiotics for secondary infection, fluids for support and to reduce respiratory congestion, and cough suppressants such as Cough Tabs. We do not have anti-viral treatments for dogs.

Are my dogs at risk for Canine Influenza Virus?

The level of risk depends on your dog’s lifestyle. Dogs at greatest risk include those who go to boarding kennels, doggie daycares, groomers, dog parks, and those who participate in dog shows or other canine sporting events. People may be able to bring the virus in on their clothing, shoes and hands.

What do you recommend?

Prevention is the best approach. Of course, staying home is one option. But as we discovered during COVID, this is not a perfect solution. We can vaccinate for Bordetella, parainfluenza, adenovirus, and canine influenza. The intranasal Bordetella, parainfluenza and adenovirus product creates local immunity – meaning that the virus and bacteria are blocked at the entry into the nasal and oral cavities. The oral vaccine may not provide parainfluenza protection as well as the intranasal.

If your dog’s lifestyle has any risk of exposure, we recommend getting them vaccinated against CIV which involves a vaccination with a booster vaccination 3 weeks later. Annual boosters are then recommended. This is also a good opportunity to get the Bordetella 3 way vaccine for added protection if they are overdue. If the vaccine is not an option for you, we recommend you avoid activities that will lead to exposure and practice social distancing. This may require that you avoid people visiting your home and kennel.

What are the causes of respiratory disease in dogs?

There are several causes of Canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRD) also frequently referred to as “kennel cough”. Kennel cough is a collection of disorders, not a diagnosis. Viral agents include: adenovirus, parainfluenza, coronavirus, canine distemper, canine herpes virus, and canine influenza A (H3N2 and H3N8). Bacterial agents include Bordetella and mycoplasma. It is likely there are other causes that have not yet been identified. The only way to know for certain the cause of the infection is to send throat swabs to a diagnostic lab for PCR testing. Results can take up to 1 week.

How do we know this outbreak is caused by Canine Influenza?

In our practices in Wisconsin, we have seen multiple dogs who have had confirmed canine influenza infection (H3N2) based on PCR testing. We are recommending any dog in high-exposure risk situations be vaccinated for canine influenza using the bivalent vaccine. This vaccine protects against both H3N2 and H3N8. In other words, if your dog(s) have a lifestyle where you veterinary professionals have recommended Bordetella vaccines, your dog(s) should also be protected against canine influenza with vaccines.

Where did Canine Influenza come from?

Prior to 2004, there had not been reports of dogs contracting canine influenza. It is thought that this new canine virus was the result of a mutation from equine influenza. The second variety is suspected to have been brought to the US in dogs from Asia. Because this is a relatively new virus, most of our dogs in the early years had no natural immunity from prior exposure. Based on the recent outbreak, it appears many of our dogs are still naïve and unprotected, making vaccination essential.

Are vaccines safe for my dog?

Looking at all the medical breakthroughs, including antibiotics, anesthetic agents, imaging, advanced surgery, and cancer treatments, vaccines have likely saved more human and animal lives than any other advance. In our practice, we have not seen any adverse events associated with the canine influenza vaccines. Vaccine injury can occur but is rare.

Should I vaccinate my dogs?

Vaccinating your dogs for the 3 way Bordetella and 2 way Canine Influenza infections can protect your dogs, save you the costs of treatment, and may save their lives. Vaccine supplies are limited so speak to your veterinary professionals to arrange for protection today!

For more information on canine influenza, watch the latest podcast from Pure Dog Talk where Dr. Marty Greer discusses CIV in more depth.

Canine Influenza: Pure Dog Talk with Marty Greer, DVM

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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

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