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Parainfluenza in Dogs - What You Need to Know

Canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV) is a very contagious virus that can cause respiratory illness in dogs. Our veterinarians in Madison have detailed the symptoms pet owners should be aware of, the causes of parainfluenza in dogs, and how to treat it.

What is parainfluenza virus infections for dogs? 

Parainfluenza, a viral lung infection, affects dogs and leads to infectious tracheobronchitis, commonly known as "kennel cough." This highly contagious infection commonly occurs in areas with a high density of dogs, such as off-leash parks, animal shelters, and dog boarding facilities. Canine parainfluenza virus and canine influenza are two different viruses that cause similar respiratory symptoms. As a result, they require different treatments and vaccinations.

What are the causes of dog parainfluenza virus infection?

Parainfluenza is a viral disease that spreads through the air dogs breathe. It is highly contagious, particularly among dogs that live or spend time with other dogs. Parainfluenza is similar to canine distemper and causes respiratory symptoms such as a dry, hacking cough and inflammation of the larynx, bronchial tubes, and trachea.

Puppies and older adult dogs with weak immune systems are more likely to get infected. Toy breeds are also at higher risk of developing pneumonia due to the thick secretions that result from throat irritation. Even after the infection has cleared, the virus can remain in the air for up to two weeks.

What are the symptoms of parainfluenza in dogs?

Parainfluenza in dogs can cause various symptoms, including but not limited to:

  • 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 parainfluenza virus itself can be a component of other canine respiratory diseases, most notably kennel cough, bordetella, and canine adenovirus-2.

How is it diagnosing parainfluenza in dogs?

It's important to provide the vet with a detailed history of your pet's health. The parainfluenza virus is highly contagious and can easily spread in places like boarding kennels, grooming salons, and other areas where many dogs gather. It's crucial to provide information about your pet's whereabouts within 2-4 weeks of the first symptoms appearing.

Your pet's health and vaccination history will be required, and it's important to provide as much detail as possible about any contact with other dogs, regardless of the environment in which that contact occurred.

The vet will perform a physical examination and some diagnostic tests such as blood tests, cultures, and testing of fluid and tissue samples. They may also need to use imaging techniques like radiography (x-ray) to determine if 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 Virus Infection

Your vet is unlikely to recommend hospitalization because the virus is highly contagious between dogs unless the situation is dire. Instead 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.
  • Doctors may prescribe antibiotics like cephalosporins, quinolones, chloramphenicol, and tetracycline in severe chronic cases. Typically, the appropriate antibiotic medication is chosen by the vet based on the results of the cultures that doctors take and analyze.
  • Some treatment options may include bronchodilator pretreatment followed by aerosolization treatments.

Benefits of Vaccinations for Parainfluenza

At Best Friends Animal Hospital, we highly recommend that all dogs receive the DHPP shot (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus) when they are between six to eight weeks. After that, administer booster shots to your dog at 10-12 weeks old, 14-16 weeks old, and between 12 to 16 months old. As your dog grows up, make sure to schedule annual vaccinations and routine exams to safeguard your furry friend from parainfluenza and other diseases. 

What are the risks and side effects of this vaccination?

After vaccination, pets commonly experience lethargy, mild discomfort, and a slight fever. These symptoms can cause your pet to deviate from its usual behavior.

However, this is a normal reaction to vaccinations, and the symptoms should be mild and last only for a day or two.

If your pet experiences a serious reaction, the symptoms will typically occur quickly after the vaccine is administered but can take up to 48 hours to appear.

Signs of severe side effects of pet vaccinations include itchiness, hives, facial swelling, diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.

If your pet's symptoms become more severe after 48 hours or if you notice any of these severe side effects, immediately contact your veterinarian.

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.

If you think your dog may have parainfluenza, our team at Best Friends Animal Hospital is here to help. Contact our vets in Madison to book an appointment for your canine companion.

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