Upper Respiratory Infections in Dogs

October 18, 2023

At some point in every dog’s life they will be exposed to some form of respiratory infection. It is
best to be prepared for this through vaccination and routine exams with a veterinarian. The
most common respiratory infection we see in our area is Kennel Cough, however there have
also been recent outbreaks of Influenza as well. Luckily for our furry friends, there is a vaccine
for each of these infections that greatly reduces the symptoms of illness and shortens recovery

Kennel Cough, or “Infectious Tracheobronchitis”, is a combination of viral and bacterial upper
respiratory infections that are commonly seen in areas heavily trafficked by dogs. Boarding
facilities, grooming facilities, and dog parks are the most common areas where a dog can
contract this infection. This disease is spread very easily through respiratory droplets of
infected dogs. Symptoms include a “honking” cough, sometimes with a gag at the end, as well
as lethargy, decreased appetite, or runny eyes and nose. This infection is usually self-limiting,
meaning it resolves on its own without treatment after about 1-3 weeks however, cough
suppressants may be used to keep the dog comfortable by reducing the severity of the cough.
For bacterial forms of the infection, antibiotics may be required for treatment as well. Dogs
suspected of having kennel cough should be isolated for 2-3 weeks to prevent spreading the

Canine Influenza is similar in some aspects to Flu in humans as it is highly contagious and can
cause coughing, lethargy, fever, and runny nose. It is different from human flu as it cannot be
spread to people and does not mutate every year. Influenza does tend to cause more severe
clinical signs in pets than we see with Kennel Cough but it is often contracted in the same
general settings that we would find Kennel Cough. Antibiotics are not helpful in treating
Influenza since it is a virus so treatment is geared toward keeping the pet comfortable by
managing the cough and loss of appetite. This infection tends to last 1-3 weeks as well and can
spread like wildfire through kennels so it is imperative that dogs suspected of having this
infection are kept isolated for 3 weeks. Coughing can sometimes linger for weeks after this time
as well but the pet is likely not spreading the infection.

In severe cases of both of these infections, a secondary bacterial or viral pneumonia can
happen. This is more commonly seen in dogs that are elderly, immunocompromised or not
vaccinated for Kennel Cough or Influenza. Treatment for this often requires lengthy hospital
stays with intravenous fluid therapy, injectable antibiotics and other supportive treatments. In
some cases, these infections can be fatal if treatment for pneumonia is not successful.
Luckily, there are vaccines available for these contagions. At 4 Paws, we typically recommend
vaccinating dogs for Kennel Cough with a vaccine that is given in the nose at a minimum of once
a year. For dogs that are more frequent visitors of groomers, day care, dog parks, etc, we do
recommend giving the vaccine every 6 months since their likelihood of exposure is higher. The
Canine Influenza vaccine protects against two different strains of the virus and is recommended
annually for any dog that could be in contact with another dog at a kennel, boarding facility,

groomer, or dog park. Just like any vaccine, these do not completely prevent a dog from
catching these infections but they do drastically decrease the severity of clinical signs, chances
of developing pneumonia and duration of illness. Please talk with one of our veterinary
technicians or veterinarians to determine if these vaccines are recommended for your fur baby.