Everything you need to know about canine respiratory illness

canine respiratory illness

What is canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC), also known as kennel cough complex? This is a contagious respiratory illness, which means it can spread to your dog through exposure to other animals. There is no evidence that it can spread to humans.


Luckily, there are measures you can take to keep your dog safe! First, it’s incredibly important to ensure your pet’s respiratory vaccines are up-to-date, including for canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRDC) and canine influenza virus. This is the easiest and most effective preventive way to protect your pet. The best CIRDC vaccine is delivered into the nose and protects against 3 disease agents at one time (Bordetella, Parainfluenza, and Adenovirus).

Dogs with canine respiratory infections are contagious before they show any signs. If an outbreak has been reported in your area or you feel your dog is vulnerable, avoiding spending time around other dogs can help stop the spread of canine respiratory illness. You can do this by eliminating time at doggy daycares, boarding facilities, dog parks, communal water bowls or any other place that is frequented by other dogs. 

Exercise is still important for your pet’s health. Taking them for their daily walks is fine, but they should be kept on a leash. Practicing good hygiene, such as keeping your dog and their surroundings clean, can also help.

Stopping the spread of canine respiratory illness also means monitoring your dog for the following signs so you can ensure they remain isolated if need be:

  • Coughing
  • Productive coughing (mucus from the mouth after coughing)
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal or eye discharge
  • Rapid or labored breathing
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Decreased appetite or refusing food
  • Fever


While prevention is always the best course of action, canine respiratory illness is treatable. If you notice your dog exhibiting any of the above signs, be sure to book an appointment with your VCA veterinarian for examination and diagnostic testing and notify us of respiratory signs before your arrival so we can reduce the risk of infection to other patients. Most cases resolve within seven to 10 days with supportive care. If your dog’s cough is not better within 2 weeks or you notice trouble breathing, weakness, or fever, please see your veterinarian for evaluation and additional treatment.

If your dog’s signs worsen or seem severe, please visit one of our urgent care or emergency hospitals. We’re always ready to help your dog feel their best!


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