“New” Canine Respiratory Condition

Submitted By: Dr. Veja Tillman, DVM

The “new” canine respiratory illness has gained much media attention since its first reporting earlier in the year.  This condition has been included in a group of canine respiratory conditions referred to as Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex, or CIRDC.  CIRDC respiratory conditions are ever present in our environment. Most of the diseases are seen and treated by veterinarians on a regular basis. Others are seen less often.

Currently, there is no clearly identified infectious agent for this illness and not enough confirmed cases to say whether it is of immediate concern for the pet population.  However, several veterinary agencies are making efforts in the identification of its cause.  Until the cause of this condition is identified and a determination of  whether or not it is truly “nationwide”, our pets should be monitored closely, and general precautions should be taken.

The most common clinical sign of this illness is a honking cough that may sound like retching (or attempts to vomit). This cough may be wet or dry, mild or severe. Other signs include sneezing, discharge from the nose and eyes, lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, labored breathing (when pneumonia develops).  Signs may be mild or severe. Complications of this condition include pneumonia, chronic tracheobronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to name a few. Some pets have died due to complications related to this condition. Not all dogs show the same signs and signs do not develop in a particular order.  So, pay close attention to any changes in your pet’s health.

Currently, there is no one size fits all standard treatment for this illness. Typical treatment may include antibiotics, an anti-inflammatory agent and possibly a cough suppressant. However, veterinarians have been treating various respiratory diseases of dogs for a longtime. Discuss your concerns with have been treating various respiratory diseases of dogs for a longtime. Discuss your concerns with Remember, early treatment increases the chance of a healthier outcome.

Remember, early treatment increases the chance of a healthier outcome.

  • Vaccination:  make sure that your pets is vaccinated completely for diseases that cause respiratory symptoms.  This includes Distemper (Adenovirus), Parainfluenza, Bordetella (kennel cough) and Influenza.  Keep in mind, some of these vaccines require a booster within 3-4 weeks after the first dose to give your pet the best immune response.
  • Socialization:  While we do not want to disrupt our pet(s) social calendars, we must also be careful to monitor our pet’s exposure to potential sources of infection. This would include daycare, grooming (including mobile grooming), dog parks and any other types of social gatherings for pets that do not live in the same household.  It is recommended to limit your pet’s socialization to smaller well-known groups of similarly vaccinated pals.  Also, consider avoiding pets that have recently traveled out of your area (for at least 2 weeks). They may carry potential infections that may harm your pet, even if they are not currently showing clinical signs.
  • Fomites: Fomites are objects that may harbor potential contaminants (bacteria, viruses, fungus, chemicals, etc). Examples of these would be food bowls, water dishes, toys, bedding, clothing, unsanitized hands, etc).  Frequent sanitation, cleaning and hand washing is highly recommended to decrease the potential of passing on germs from pet to pet and from pet to human and vice versa.
  • Medical Care:  It is best to have your pet seen by your veterinarian immediately if signs of illness are noticed.  The sooner the better.  Delays in evaluation and treatment can cause worsening of signs and increases the potential of passing on the contagion to other pets. Treating at the earliest signs of illness generally leads to a better outcome than waiting for the signs to get worse and then starting treatment.

Be diligent in recognizing changes in your pets health and normal routine. Discuss with your veterinarian any signs of illness that your pet may be experiencing. There is no one size fits all when it comes to treating respiratory diseases.  So, working closely with your veterinarian is the best way to ensure that your pet receives the best recommendation for their individual needs.


Dr. Tillman is a 2002 graduate of Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine. Her veterinary practice and work experience focuses on health and wellness of pets. She is the owner of Just 4 Pets Wellness Center and can be reached at 239-270-5721.

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