There is widespread reporting of an infectious respiratory disease among dogs that has turned deadly in rare cases. The disease has been detected in dogs across the country, including in Massachusetts. This disease is considered to be part of the canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC).
What is CIRDC?
CIRDC are diseases caused by several different and often highly contagious bacterial and viral pathogens and include illness such as Bordetella (kennel cough), canine parainfluenza, and canine influenza. CIRDC is endemic in dogs, meaning it’s always present wherever there are dogs.
Symptoms of CIRDC include coughing, sneezing, eye or nose discharge, inappetence, and lethargy. Symptoms can last from several days to weeks.
What is the canine respiratory disease observed more recently?
At the moment we don’t know if this is a new disease. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), symptoms of this respiratory disease appear to last weeks longer than the typical symptoms of the better-known and very common Bordetella. The disease is generally resistant to standard treatments, such as antibiotics. In very rare cases, dogs develop acute pneumonia that rapidly becomes severe and often leads to poor outcomes in as little as 24-36 hours.
Whether we are seeing a new disease in North America or a previously existing but undiagnosed illness is not known. In the chart below, reflecting respiratory related insurance claims submitted to pet insurer Trupanion in Colorado, we certainly see a spike in respiratory claims this fall of 2023. This increase could be the result of other factors, including a growing population of dogs, increased travel and boarding since the COVID pandemic, and delayed vaccinations and reduced socialization since the pandemic.
“What the net result could be is we’ve got more dogs that have a lower level of resistance because they’ve been exposed to other dogs less over the last couple of years, and they’ve had less vaccinations. That means, just with our normal respiratory diseases that are always circulating, we’ll see more spikes in disease cases,” says Dr. Scott Weese, a pathobiology professor at the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College and director of the university’s Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses. Dr. Weese also states that the number of severe cases may not indicate a new disease. “When you have more cases, you’ll get more severe disease since a small percentage of dogs with CIRDC get severe disease.”
Keep your dog healthy!
Whether this is a new disease or simply a bad season of CIRDC, our advice for keeping your dog safe if the same.
Keep your dog up to date on vaccines. The AVMA notes that though the efficacy of existing vaccines against current cases is uncertain, maintaining your dog’s health through routine vaccinations can help support a dog’s immune system in combating disease. If your dog is a patient at CSAH, they are likely vaccinated against parainfluenza virus and canine adenovirus type 2 (part of the DHPP vaccine series given to almost all of our canine patients).
At CSAH we typically only recommend Bordetella (kennel cough) if your dog is around other dogs a lot. As a pre-caution, we are recommending more dogs receive the Bordetella vaccine regardless of exposure to other dogs. If you are wondering if your dog should receive this vaccine reach out to us. We also carry a vaccine for canine influenza, but this disease is very sporadic in New England. If we hear reports of this disease in our area, we will begin recommending the vaccine. Some groomers, day cares, and boarding facilities may begin to require this vaccine as a precaution against CIRDC.
Reduce your dog’s contact with large numbers of unknown dogs, such as at dog parks and using communal water bowls. Avoid nose-to-nose doggie greetings. At this point, it is not necessary to avoid day cares, boarding, or grooming facilities unless your dog or another dog in the home is immune compromised. The risk of CIRDC is not much greater than it normally is. Consider asking facilities about the vaccines they require and their cleaning protocols. If you aren’t comfortable with the answers, consider your alternatives.
Keep your dog away from dogs that appear ill: those exhibiting a runny nose, runny eyes, sneezing, and coughing.
But if they do get sick
Contact us immediately if your dog is experiencing a lingering cough, weakness, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, worsening of illness, and a cough that is sufficiently severe that it causes the dog to vomit or makes it hard for the animal to breathe. Reach out early even with mild symptoms, as some cases advance very quickly. Be particularly vigilant if your dog is old, very young, brachycephalic (short nosed or flat faced), immunocompromised, pregnant, or has underlying heart or respiratory disease.
While the disease doesn’t respond well to standard treatments, we can offer supportive care to help your dog fight off the infection. If your dog is suffering from a different illness, we can help identify and try to treat.
Safety at CSAH
Worried about bringing your pet to see us at CSAH and potentially expose them to this disease? Remember that CIRDC is endemic, so we see CIRDC cases all….the…time. We have protocols in place to prevent transmission of CIRDC and other diseases between our patients. Dogs exhibiting symptoms of diseases including CIRDC are asked to wait for their appointments in their cars instead of the lobby, exam rooms are sanitized between appointments and are disinfected with Lysol after an appointment with a patient suspected to have CIRDC or another highly contagious illness. We don’t see any more risk in bringing in your pet to CSAH than there is at any other time!
As always, please reach out if you have any questions: email@example.com.