"More information on canine infectious respiratory disease (kennel cough)

"More information on canine infectious respiratory disease (kennel cough)

Health & Safety

Canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD) is one of the most common conditions of the upper respiratory tract that can affect dogs, and can be potentially serious. Better known as kennel cough, CIRD is airborne, and very contagious between dogs that are kept in close quarters with each other, such as kennels, dog shows and other sites where a lot of dogs congregate together.

CIRD can also have a long term impact upon your dog, even after recovery, and so it is important that all dog owners learn to recognise the signs of the condition, understand the type of situations that may cause the condition to become prevalent, and know what can be done to prevent infection. Read on to learn more.

More about CIRD

CIRD is not caused by one specific agent, but can be caused by a range of different viral conditions that are airborne and to which dogs are sensitive. Some of the most common viruses that lead to the condition include Bordatella, Reovirus, canine adenovirus 2, and canine herpes. While any one of these agents can individually infect a dog with CIRD, generally, two or more of these viruses will work in combination to produce an outbreak and infection in dogs.

What are the symptoms?

Canine CIRD can produce a fairly wide range of symptoms in affected dogs, which can vary in severity and presentation. The symptoms tend to be chronic, and every dog will be affected differently, depending on their prior health, immune system, and exposure.

Some of the most common symptoms of CIRD in dogs include:

  • A persistent dry, non-productive cough.
  • A distinctive honking sound when coughing.
  • Retching when coughing.
  • A hacking cough.
  • A persistent runny discharge from the nose and eyes.
  • Slightly elevated temperature.
  • Lethargy and a general lack of energy.
  • Loss of appetite.

How badly the symptoms will affect any individual dog can be very variable, as mentioned, but virtually all affected dogs will display a persistent dry cough, although this might not seem to be affecting them unduly and they may otherwise appear well.

If your dog also appears to be losing their appetite along with other symptoms, this is rather more serious, and will require prompt treatment. Unvaccinated dogs and puppies who are too young to have had all of their vaccinations are particularly likely to develop a more severe form of the condition.

How is CIRD diagnosed?

In order to get a formal diagnosis of the condition, begin treatment and protect other dogs from catching the virus, you will need to take your dog along to the vet for some tests. Please let the clinic know before you go along that your dog may possibly have CIRD, as they will probably try to keep your dog out of the waiting room and limit the chances of them passing on the infection to other dogs in the clinic.

How is CIRD treated?

There are two approaches that can be taken to treating CIRD, depending on how symptomatic your dog is and how badly the condition seems to be affecting them. Cough suppressants and bronchodilators may be used to make your dog more comfortable and open up their airways, and antibiotics are also often prescribed to deal with any associated bacterial infection in milder presentations of the condition.

For more severe presentations of the condition, stronger antibiotics will generally be used, without cough suppressants as these can have an immunosuppressant effect on the dog, at a time when they need their immune system to be as strong as possible in order to fight off the infection.

The ultimate prognosis for any dog will depend on a range of factors, including their age, general health, immune strength and whether or not they are vaccinated.

Can CIRD be prevented?

A vaccine is available for CIRD, which is generally given as part of the standard initial and booster vaccination packages. It is strongly advised that all dogs have this vaccine, in order to reduce the chances of them contracting the disease. While vaccination will greatly reduce the chances of any given dog catching the condition, vaccinated dogs may still in some cases be affected, although the effect that CIRD has on them will tend to be much less pronounced than for dogs that have not been vaccinated.

It is also a good idea to limit your dog’s exposure to unvaccinated dogs or places where they may come into contact with a lot of unknown dogs too. When arranging a stay for your dog in a boarding kennel, check that vaccination is one of the terms of boarding, to ensure that the chances of your dog coming into contact with a carrier of the condition are as low as possible.

Practicing excellent hygiene protocols in terms of washing your dog’s bowls and bedding, and not allowing these to be shared with unvaccinated dogs is also important, as it getting your dog checked out by the vet as soon as you suspect that something is amiss.

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