Mystery Respiratory Illness

There has been news recently about a mysterious respiratory infection in dogs in some parts of our country. We’ve not experienced or heard about any instances in our clients or even in the area, nor have we seen our usual slight seasonal uptick of reported cases of canine cold.  But we are receiving questions about it, so here is the best information we have.

Based on national news reports, it’s not clear if the current pathogen causing the illness is one of the known pathogens or a new one. That’s because:

  • There isn’t a centralized reporting system
  • The media coverage may be raising awareness and discussion that would otherwise have been managed as usual
  • There may be some local clusters in other parts of the country increasing the volume
  • Many of the cases suspected have not had diagnostic testing

We thought we would share what we know about respiratory illness in general to help pet owners understand the dynamics at work with disease transmission and vaccination protection, and also how to evaluate the risks and rewards of a social environment where their dog will be exposed to other dogs.

Just as in humans, there are a number of bacterial and viral infections that can be easily transmitted among dogs. The most common one is CIRDC (canine respiratory disease complex, a catch-all for a variety of infections commonly referred to as canine cough or kennel cough). Canine influenza virus (CIV) is another upper respiratory infection.

How concerning are CIRDC infections?

dog holding a stethoscope in it's mouthFor most dogs, these infections are minor and self-resolving. They can even strengthen the dog’s immunity by adding to their collection of antibodies developed while fighting the infection. It is comparable to a child’s experience in school with colds and flu. Any infection, however, could be serious or even life-threatening to dogs at greater risk, so if in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

Which dogs are more likely to pick up an infection?

  • Young ones with immune systems that are still developing
  • Those with limited contact with other dogs
  • Those that are especially nervous or anxious away from home – as stress can make them more susceptible and/or weaken their immune response
  • Dogs with weakened or compromised immune systems

How many cases have occurred at Pampered Pets Inn?

It is difficult for us to say definitively how many cases may be connected with our facility because:

  • There is usually a lag time between infection and symptoms/diagnosis (3 – 10 days).
  • They are often not confirmed by a veterinarian (symptoms not serious enough for a vet visit).
  • Very few dogs develop symptoms while staying with us (those that do are immediately moved to isolation) so we have to rely on customers to report issues after the visit.
  • It can be difficult to pinpoint where an infectious transmission occurred. It could be at a boarding/daycare facility, but also the veterinarian, the dog park, an interaction with a neighbor’s dog, touching noses on walks, in an elevator, or with another family dog.

The vast majority of the time, we are at a typical level of exposure. We care for 600 – 800 different dogs in a month with less than 1% of our pet guests experiencing infectious disease issues during or after a stay.

December 2023:   We had no reported cases in October and November.  We had 1 case reported to us in September.

I want my dog to be boarded or attend daycare. How can I reduce the risks of them contracting canine cough or flu?

  • Vaccinations (Bordetella, influenza vaccine and DHPP) are the first and best line of defense, as they may prevent infection or reduce the associated symptoms and complications. While vaccinated dogs can still become infected, you can increase their immunity by not letting their vaccines expire. Getting caught up by boosting them right before a stay may not provide the fullest protection. Many veterinarians recommend getting the Bordetella booster twice yearly.
  • Limit their exposure to dogs whose vaccination history and status is unknown (e.g., dog parks or while out walking dogs).
  • Bring them to daycare or boarding more frequently. It may be counterintuitive, but repeated exposure can increase their familiarity, reduce stress and strengthen their immune system. Reputable facilities maintain strict vaccine policies, monitor their populations closely for signs of illness, and keep the environment extremely clean, so an argument can be made that boarding and daycare dogs may be the healthiest part of a community’s dog population.
  • If your dog is elderly, very young, or immunocompromised, you may wish to consider avoiding boarding or daycare facilities when there is an elevated risk from reported cases in the area. In-home pet sitting or walking may be a good alternative in those situations. When evaluating disease risks for your dog in a social environment, it can be helpful to view them in context with the benefits of socialization. For many dogs, the positive behavioral benefits outweigh the risks of possible infections. This is particularly true for healthy dogs with good immune systems.

What are the symptoms I should watch for?

The presence of some of these symptoms could indicate an infection:

  • Coughing (dry hacking or wet)
  • Sneezing and nasal discharge
  • Lethargy / reduced appetite

How can I help?

Understand that your dog is an important member of our dog population and what you do impacts not just your dog but all the other Pampered Pets Inn guests. We have a remarkable client base, so know that you are in good company.

  • Don’t bring your dog for a visit if they show symptoms of a contagious illness
  • Don’t let your dog’s vaccines expire–keep them up-to-date at all times
  • Talk to your vet about the influenza vaccine and whether it’s a good choice for your dog
  • Do not let your dog interact with dogs who may not be vaccinated or are sick
  • Keep us informed about your pet’s illnesses