What is Canine Parainfluenza?
Canine parainfluenza is a virus that can contribute to respiratory infections, often lumped together as kennel cough. A more technical term for the condition is infectious tracheobronchitis. Dogs may develop the illness from different viruses or bacteria, including Bordetella.
The most common symptom of canine parainfluenza is coughing. Affected dogs may develop a hacking, sometimes productive cough. Furthermore, some dogs can also develop a secondary bacterial infection that can make them feel even worse.
Like many infections, dogs can pass canine parainfluenza to other dogs quite readily. Especially when they are in high population areas, such as kennels and shelters. Unfortunately, many dogs may be sharing the germs when they aren’t symptomatic. This causes a rapid spread of the infection.
For most dogs, canine parainfluenza is not life-threatening and will resolve with minimal treatment. In addition to coughing, other common symptoms include fever, lethargy, inappetence, and sneezing. Unfortunately, some dogs may develop significant complications, such as pneumonia, that needs to be treated with more intensive care.
The important thing to keep in mind about canine parainfluenza is that it is not species-specific. This means that it can spread to other mammals including cats and even people. Especially if they are immunocompromised, although this is not nearly as common as transmission between dogs.
Diagnosing canine parainfluenza is often presumptive. It is based upon a dog’s history of being boarded, a recent adoption, or even travelling. In cases where a more concrete diagnosis is needed, such as a pet still currently being boarded and potentially exposing other dogs, certain laboratories offer PCR testing.
Your veterinarian can use a sterile swab to collect a sample from the conjunctiva, the nasal passages, and/or the back of the throat. These tests often check for other potentially infectious agents, such as the bacterial infection Bordetella and canine distemper.
Treatment for Canine Parainfluenza
Your veterinarian may suggest different diagnostics for your dog, in addition to a thorough physical exam. Based upon their findings, your vet will recommend a course of therapy. These treatments are generally supportive in nature, including anti-inflammatories such as carprofen for dogs that are febrile.
Anti-viral treatments are not commonly used in pets. So don’t be surprised if your veterinarian doesn’t prescribe one. Just like you having a cold, time and symptomatic treatment are needed. In most cases, veterinarians will not prescribe an antibiotic like doxycycline unless they are also suspicious of a bacterial infection complicating your dog’s case.
At home, you may find that steam can help your dog breathe more comfortably. Just like if you have a stuffy nose. A humidifier can be beneficial. However, you may just want to run a hot shower with the door closed and let your dog spend 10 minutes in the room.
While your dog is sick, they need to be kept away from other dogs, especially those that have not been vaccinated. This means no trips to dog parks, no grooming visits, and no friends coming over.
Vaccinating for Canine Parainfluenza and Preventing Infection
No one wants to get sick, and that’s especially true when you have a dog that might be more at risk for infections. Such as a puppy that hasn’t been fully vaccinated. The good news is that you can help reduce the risk of your dog developing a canine parainfluenza infection by taking it to a veterinarian for preventative care.
What is more, a combination vaccine is usually recommended for puppies and then yearly or every three years for adult dogs. The frequency depends on where you live and what the vaccine is labelled for. The most commonly used vaccines may be a five-way, six-way, or seven-way vaccine, such as Duramune by Zoetis.
In addition to helping protect against parainfluenza, which is not usually a severe infection, these vaccines are often also designed to produce an immune response against canine distemper and canine parvovirus. These viral infections can be downright deadly.
Most puppies receive these vaccines starting at 6 to 8 weeks, as their mother’s immunity is starting to wane in their bodies. Your veterinarian will suggest a schedule, most commonly every 3 to 4 weeks until your dog is at least 16 weeks old.
Vaccines are incredibly important to protecting pets, and side effects are rare. While canine parainfluenza is often more of a nuisance than a serious health risk, you don’t want your dog to be one who develops pneumonia or another life-threatening condition. Talk to your veterinarian about the best preventative care schedule for your pet.