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Attention Pet Owners! Important Information on an Atypical Canine Respiratory Disease Hitting Colorado

As of the new year,  the number canine respiratory disease cases in dogs seems to be on the decline, but not quite back to normal levels.  It’s not clear what caused the upswing late last fall. However, outbreaks are fairly common and can peak over different time periods.

During the fall 2023 outbreak, researchers and veterinarians at CSU were instrumental in helping increase diagnostic testing and had some positive cases for parainfluenza, canine coronavirus, and pneumovirus. Research was also done in New Hampshire to try to pinpoint a specific pathogen.

Overall, main takeaways for pet owners include continuing to take precautions, such as keeping vaccines up-to-date as directed by the dog’s primary veterinarian and keeping your pet separated from sick pets. Pet owners can also watch out for symptoms of respiratory disease, especially if symptoms are severe and/or worsening or if they occur in dogs with higher risk for severe illness.


With These Symptoms Or If Symptoms Are Rapidly Worsening, Seek Care Promptly.

  • Labored breathing
  • Cough causing vomiting
  • Loss of appetite or respiratory distress
  • Weakness
  • Severe lethargy or  lack of engagement

Higher Risk Situations

Depending on the age of your pet, your pet’s breed, and any pre-existing health concerns that your pet is facing, some dogs may be at higher risk for more serious and/or life-threatening infection. These situations include:

  • Very young or senior dogs
  • Pregnant dogs
  • Dogs with compromised immune systems
  • Dogs with pre-existing heart or respiratory disease
  • Brachycephalic (flatter-faced) breeds

Mild Symptoms of Canine Respiratory Disease

While there’s no need to panic, the illness can be serious in some pets, so it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and take precautions.  Symptoms are similar to other respiratory illnesses such as kennel cough and include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Runny eyes/nose
  • Sneezing
  • Lethargy

Infected pets may be contagious before symptoms arise.

If your pet is exhibiting symptoms:

  • Stay away from other dogs.
  • For mild symptoms and if your pet is otherwise healthy, it’s generally appropriate to monitor your pet at home and contact your veterinarian as needed.
  • Contact a vet if symptoms are prolonged, worsening, or if your pet is not eating, despondent, or not acting normally.
  • If your pet has labored breathing, we recommend seeing your primary care veterinarian as soon as possible or visiting the ER.
  • Since the illness is highly contagious, we recommend calling from your car upon arrival to limit contact with other pets and expedite the check-in process.
  • If in doubt, contact your veterinarian.

Although there seem to be more dogs with serious symptoms, current infections may not be more serious than we’ve seen in the past.  When the number of dogs with CIRDC goes up, the number of dogs with severe disease tends to go up proportionately. So, in general, we would expect to see more cases of severe disease when we have more overall illness.

What Will Happen If I Take My Dog to the Vet with Respiratory Symptoms?

There are many factors, especially the severity of the symptoms your pet is experiencing.

  • Veterinarians will first do a physical exam to assess breathing and severity of symptoms.
  • Infectious respiratory disease is highly contagious, so aside from standard sanitation procedures, your vet may take additional precautions to reduce the risk to other pets. This may include asking that you call as you arrive at the clinic before bringing in your pet.
  • For mild symptoms, dogs often recover on their own over time. If your veterinarian says your dog looks stable and no treatment is currently required, take that as a good sign. Antibiotics are not needed in all cases and can be harmful if taken unnecessarily.
  • In some cases, if your dog’s cough is disruptive, then a cough suppressant may be prescribed.
  • If there is concern for pneumonia, radiographs of the chest and bloodwork will likely be recommended and could indicate the need for antibiotics.
  • Although it’s uncommon, if your dog is struggling to breathe, hospitalization and oxygen therapy may be required.

What Precautions Can You Take for Canine Respiratory Disease?

Some precautions include the following:

  • Ensure dogs are up to date on vaccines as recommended by your primary veterinarian.
  • Don’t allow your pet to mix with dogs exhibiting symptoms and keep your dog away from others if your dog is sick. Until more is known about this illness, whenever possible, avoid contact with dogs outside your household.
  • If your healthy dog will be at a groomer or doggy day care, ask what precautions are being taken.

Final Thoughts on Recent Reports of Atypical Canine Respiratory Disease

Veterinarians and researchers are working tirelessly to understand this illness, its causes, and potential treatments. Our medical staff is monitoring cases presented at our hospital as well as staying abreast of local news reports and scientific research. Following preventive measures is important to safeguard our furry friends. Stay informed, and let’s prioritize our pets’ well-being!

If you are questioning the seriousness of your dog’s condition, make an appointment to see your family veterinarian or bring your pet to the nearest 24-hour emergency hospital.



Kennel Cough: Understanding Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex

Cold Weather Pet Safety: Precautions for Keeping Dogs and Cats Safe During Winter Months

Could My Dog Coughing Be a Sign of Something Serious?

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