Parainfluenza & Your Dog's Health
So what is parainfluenza in dogs? Canine parainfluenza virus is a highly contagious viral lung infection that can cause infectious tracheobronchitis, commonly known as 'kennel cough.'
The respiratory symptoms of parainfluenza are similar to those seen in dogs with canine influenza, but the viruses are very different and require different treatments and vaccinations. Both are highly contagious and are commonly found in areas with dense dog populations, such as off-leash parks, animal shelters, and dog boarding facilities.
Symptoms of Parainfluenza in Dogs
Although the severity or intensity may vary, dogs suffering from parainfluenza typically display one or more of the following symptoms:
- Coughing - This can be either a dry cough or moist and productive (can include blood)
- Low-grade fever
- Discharge from the nose - This can be mucus, pus, or even blood
- Lethargy or sleeping more than usual
- Refusal to eat or decreased appetite
Note that the virus itself can be a component of other canine respiratory diseases, most notably kennel cough, bordetella, and canine adenovirus-2.
Causes of Dog Parainfluenza
Parainfluenza is viral and transmitted via the air dogs breathe. As such, it is a very contagious disease, especially for dogs who live or spend time with other dogs.
The parainfluenza virus is related to canine distemper and shares respiratory symptoms, including a dry, hacking cough and inflammation of the larynx, bronchial tubes, and trachea. Puppies and older adult canines with compromised immune systems are at higher risk. Because of the thick secretions produced by throat irritation, toy breeds are also more susceptible to pneumonia.
After the infection has healed, the virus can still be picked up in the air for up to two weeks.
Diagnosing Parainfluenza in Dogs
The vet will require a detailed history from you. The parainfluenza virus is easily spread in boarding kennels, grooming salons, and other places where a large number of dogs congregate. It is critical to provide information about your pet's whereabouts within 2 to 4 weeks of the first symptoms appearing in your family pet.
A health history and vaccination history will be required. Any contact with other canines, regardless of the environment in which that contact occurred, could be part of the infective process, so provide as much detail as possible.
The veterinarian will perform a physical examination, as well as some diagnostics like blood tests, cultures, and testing of fluid and tissue samples. He may also need to use imaging techniques such as radiography (x-ray) to determine whether there are any masses or parasitic involvement. Once all of the testing results have been received and analyzed, a treatment plan will be developed and implemented.
Treatment for Dog Parainfluenza
Because the virus is highly contagious between dogs, your vet is unlikely to recommend hospitalization unless the situation is dire. In lieu of hospitalization, your veterinarian may make management recommendations, which will most likely include:
- Recommendations for healthy eating, hygiene, and nursing care
- Recommendations for corrective action for any environmental factors suspected of being contributors
- Cough suppressants containing codeine derivatives should be used only for long-term, ineffective cough relief.
- Severe chronic cases may necessitate antibiotics such as cephalosporins, quinolones, chloramphenicol, and tetracycline; the appropriate antibiotic medication will most likely be chosen based on the results of the cultures taken and analyzed.
- Some treatment options may include bronchodilator pretreatment followed by aerosolization treatments.
Parainfluenza Dog Vaccine
At New England Veterinary Center & Cancer Care, we highly recommend that all dogs receive the DHPP shot (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus) between 6 to 8 weeks of age. Then booster shots between 10-12 weeks old, 14-16 weeks old, and 12 months to 16 months old. As your dog moves into adulthood annual vaccinations and routine exams should be scheduled to protect your pup from parainfluenza and a host of other diseases. You can view our vaccine schedule here.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.