Canine Respiratory Illness Causes and Symptoms


Veterinarians in the Prior Lake/Savage area have notified Paws & Pals that they have seen an increase in respiratory illnesses in dogs around the community in the last few months. It has been prevalent in other areas around the Twin Cities as well. The cold and wet weather this fall is a likely contributor to the increase. Fortunately, most of the cases have been mild.

What is respiratory illness in dogs?

Just as human colds are caused by different viruses, dogs are also susceptible to viruses that cause respiratory illness. These viruses are typically airborne which means that they can be spread by coughing and sneezing. When a healthy dog inhales the droplets contaminated by the virus it can become ill. Influenza epidemics in humans are an example of how easily airborne illnesses spread. You may hear these canine respiratory illnesses called canine cough, kennel cough, infectious tracheobronchitis, or canine infection respiratory disease.


What are the signs and symptoms of canine respiratory illness?

  • Persistent, forceful cough. (If you have never heard this cough it may alarm you)
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Eye discharge


What is Paws and Pals doing to prevent the spread of canine respiratory illness?

  • Careful observation of all dogs for signs and symptoms of illness
  • Multiple daily disinfection of all surfaces
  • Multiple daily disinfection of both indoor and outdoor play areas
  • Dogs that are ill are isolated and taken out alone or walked
  • Play groups are small and well supervised
  • Current vaccinations are required


What can you do to prevent illness in your dog?

  • Vaccinate for distemper and bordetella. Like the human flu shot, vaccinations are not perfect, but they do provide partial protection for some viruses.
  • When these viruses are in the community, it may be best to avoid taking your dog to the dog park. Check with your vet to learn if they are seeing a high volume of sick dogs to help you decide if the dog park is a good choice or not.
  • When walking your dog, avoid direct contact with other dogs.


If your dog becomes ill, how should you treat it?

  • There is no single “drug of choice” for treatment. For dogs with mild illness, antibiotics are typically not necessary. For more serious cases, the most common veterinary treatment includes an antibiotic and cough suppressant.
  • If your dog is resting, eating, and drinking, symptoms should gradually improve and resolve in 7 to 10 days.   
  • Home remedies that may help your dog include honey, sugar, and peppermint.  They can soothe the respiratory tract.


When should you take your dog to the vet?

  • Chronic illness:  if your dog has a chronic illness (diabetes for example) they should be taken to the vet as they can be more susceptible to secondary bacterial infections.
  • Not improving:  your dog should gradually get better over time. If you do not see improvement over several days to a week, you should consider taking your dog in.
  • Not eating or drinking:  if your dog is not eating or drinking it cannot support itself to get better.
  • Lethargy:  if your dog is lethargic and has ongoing decreased energy and activity.


The Paws & Pals staff are well trained and want your dog to have a great experience while staying or playing with us! We do everything we can to keep your dog safe and healthy. Unfortunately, canine respiratory viruses do occasionally occur within the surrounding community and can spread from dog to dog.  The good news is that most cases do resolve within 7 to 10 days and are typically not considered a serious medical condition.

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