Dog owners nationwide are concerned about a severe canine respiratory virus that doesn’t respond to traditional medications and is killing some dogs. Cases were first noted in Oregon and are suspected in several other areas. As of this writing, we aren’t certain what the cause of this virus is, so reported cases may or may not be the same illness. Veterinarians everywhere are asking people not to overreact but instead to take precautions to protect your dog.
First, know the signs of a respiratory virus or a dog “cold,” which include:
- Runny nose and/or eyes
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of appetite
Second, if your dog starts to show clinical signs or any type of cold, keep your dog at home (no shows, no daycare, no grooming) and seek veterinary care to help minimize the chance this could turn into something more serious (i.e., pneumonia).
Third, if your dog is in an environment with dogs that are not part of your household, follow these tips to minimize your dog’s risk:
- Avoid contact with dogs with clinical signs
- Do not let your dog greet dogs nose-to-nose, share toys, water bowls, etc.
- If you’re crated somewhere for an event, cover your crate with a sheet to prevent respiratory droplets from other dogs getting to your dog
- If you have senior dogs or puppies, take extra care. If you could have been exposed to a sick dog, change your clothes and wash your hands before interacting with these more vulnerable dogs.
Be aware that, at this time, it is not believed humans can catch this illness from their dogs.
Can Dogs Catch a Cold from Humans?
Like humans, dogs can suffer from upper respiratory infections from viruses in the same families as people (other than rhinovirus) and from some of the same bacteria. The infectious agents that afflict humans and dogs are species-specific, however, so it is unlikely that dogs and their owners will infect each other.
Most cases will self-resolve in seven to 10 days. Sometimes the illness does not respond to traditional therapy, and in those cases, veterinary care and diagnostics (bloodwork, PCR tests on nasal and pharyngeal swab samples, chest radiographs, tracheal wash) might be needed.
How to Prevent an Upper Respiratory Infection
Vaccinations are important in reducing your dog’s risk. Discuss appropriate vaccinations for your dog with your veterinarian. Considerations will include your dog’s lifestyle and degree of exposure to other dogs contact in dogs.