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What Are Canine Infectious Respiratory Diseases?

What Are Canine Infectious Respiratory Diseases?

Canine infectious respiratory diseases may be caused by an infection from one or more viral and/or bacterial agents, including:

  • Canine influenza virus. There are two known strains and dogs are rarely immune without vaccination. The majority of dogs exposed to either strain become infected and nearly 80 percent develop some type of clinical signs. Both strains are highly contagious between dogs, and with any influenza virus, new infections and strains are always possible.
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica. This bacterium has been commonly associated with kennel cough and has been shown to infect people and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk. A vaccine is available and may be required for some boarding kennels.

In addition, there are multiple other viruses (e.g., parainfluenza virus, adenovirus, distemper) and bacterial species (e.g., Mycoplasma, Pasteurella) that may be involved in canine respiratory diseases and outbreaks.


Sneezing, coughing, runny eyes or nose, lethargy and loss of appetite may be signs of a canine infectious respiratory disease. In more severe cases, dogs may develop pneumonia, which can be fatal. Your veterinarian can perform specific diagnostic tests to identify a particular virus or bacterium, but currently there is no immediate or in-hospital test for the diagnosis of many respiratory diseases in dogs. This means that test results may take days or weeks to return results.


Your veterinarian may decide to begin treatment before test results are returned. Additional testing may include chest X-rays and a referral for advanced testing and treatment. Pets with more severe illness may require prolonged hospitalization, oxygen and intravenous fluid therapy or antibiotics.

There are multiple vaccines available for respiratory disease caused by Bordetella, parainfluenza, distemper and canine influenza. Your veterinarian will recommend a vaccine schedule depending on your dog’s risk. Keep in mind that vaccines cannot prevent all infections from occurring.


If your veterinarian suspects your dog has a highly contagious disease of any kind, it’s likely he or she will recommend keeping your dog away from other pets. To protect your family and pets:

  • Practice good hygiene (wash exposed areas of skin after petting and playing with pets).
  • Be aware of other dogs your pets play with and where they play.
  • Minimize your dog’s contact with other dogs in times of disease outbreak.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect kennel items, bedding, toys and dishes.