My Dog is Coughing: What Could it Mean?

October 2, 2018 at 9:07 AM by Nikki Wardle

Nikki Wardle

Sick dog with a cough

You are a responsible dog owner. You take your pooch or pooches out for regular walks, give them the right food, take them to the dog park, and even doggy day camp on days you know you’ll be out all day. And of course, your family fur-ball is up-to-date on his vaccinations.

Now, he has a cough. A bad one.

You ask, “How could this happen? My dog is vaccinated. Is it the canine flu? Is it kennel cough?” The answer might surprise you.

First, let’s go over the organisms that we know of and vaccinate for:

  • Distemper (CDV)
  • Parainfluenza (CPIV)
  • Adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2)
  • Influenza (CIV, H3N8, H3N2)
  • Bordetella bronchisiptica

Next, here are the organisms that we can test for but don’t have a vaccination for, so your pet is still able to get CIRDC (Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex):

  • Mycoplasma ssp
  • Streptococcus equi subsp
  • Zooepidemicus
  • Respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV)
  • Pneumovirus (CnPnV)

But wait there’s more. There are constantly new emerging organisms that are adding to the already complex causes of CIRDC. High-density environments, such as shelters, where exposure, susceptibility, and transmission of infectious diseases are amplified can contribute to outbreaks of known CIRDC pathogens, as well as the emergence of novel pathogens.

New Cough in Town

This new cough is technically not kennel cough, and it is not canine influenza. When veterinarians at Intermountain Pet Hospital have tested for the viruses, they come back negative for all known organisms. This is a brand-new organism that has already been here in the Treasure Valley and reported as far away as Raleigh, N.C. (by Dr. Harold Pearce, a veterinarian).

Dr. Bingham Explains

"Yes, this is an interesting scenario. We are actually seeing another round of CIRDC (Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex) right now. I just saw a dog yesterday that was boarded at a different Meridian-based dog day camp that I diagnosed with CIRDC, and Dr. Davis saw a case that was boarded here and had similar symptoms. These dogs were tested and came up negative for all the 'known' organisms we currently recognize," Explained Dr. Bingham.

Bottom line, CIRDC can be caused by multiple different organisms either together or individually. Stress, diet, and air quality also contribute to the symptoms. It is a complicated infection, which is why it has been renamed from “kennel cough” to CIRDC Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex). There is no doubt that there are other organisms that contribute to CIRDC that the veterinarian community hasn’t isolated yet. This is why we see cases, but the testing for all the “known” organisms is negative. Simply put, it is more complicated than meets the eye.

Generally speaking, the treatment is the same regardless of the cause:

  • Cough suppressants
  • Sometimes an antibiotic
  • Sometimes an anti-inflammatory

All treatments are based on symptoms and severity of symptoms. Severe cases are hospitalized, although this is very rare. Many cases will self-resolve with no treatments if the patient has generally good health and a healthy immune system. It can take 5-12 days for the symptoms to resolve in most cases; either with or without treatment.

Can You Prevent It?

Yes, and no. We can prevent the infections that are caused by the organisms we have vaccines for. We can’t prevent infections from organisms that have no vaccine and/or are newly emerging diseases. The cause of this new infection is an unknown organism; there is no known vaccine. But there are steps you can take help your canine have the best fighting chance.

First and foremost, get your pet vaccinated.  Next, as Dr. Bingham mentioned before, stress, air quality, and diet also contribute to your pet’s immune health. Talk to your veterinarian about the diet your dog is on and what options are available to help your pooch deal with any stress in their life.

Also, don’t be fooled. There are many serious reasons for a dog to cough including heart disease, cancer, etc. If you do notice that your canine has a relatively bad and persistent cough, contact your veterinarian to see if they want you to bring them in.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Topics: Pet Vaccination Clinic, Canine Flu

Nikki Wardle

Written by Nikki Wardle

Nikki is the marketing manager for IPH and has been writing for Intermountain Pet Hospital since 2014.