Canine upper respiratory tract (URT) infections are largely, but not always, preventable through use of vaccines and appropriate quarantine measures. In addition, strong immune systems that are supported by good nutrition and environmental care can help ward off, or at least lessen, the adverse effects of upper respiratory tract infections in our companion animals.
Preventing Upper Respiratory Tract Infections
The persistence of URT infections in our companion animals is no doubt caused by shedding of the causative pathogens in the respiratory secretions of dogs at boarding kennels, animal shelters, dog parks, pet stores, dog shows, veterinary hospitals and any other place where dogs congregate in high density. Prevention must be focused on these dogs in these environments.
Appropriate and regular vaccination is the best way to prevent URT infection in dogs. Currently, viral and bacterial vaccines are available to control the principal agents involved. Vaccines are available for canine parainfluenzavirus, canine influenza virus, canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus type 2 and for Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterial infection. These vaccines are available through many of the “combination vaccines” regularly recommended by veterinarians, and some are availably individually as well. All dogs (especially puppies) should be vaccinated against distemper. Dogs that are boarded or come into close contact with other dogs should be vaccinated against Bordetella (there are injectable and intranasal forms of this vaccine). Dogs that are vaccinated against Bordetella may still become infected with some strains, but the vaccination reduces the severity and longevity of any associated illness.
Cleaning and Quarantine Measures
Upper respiratory tract infections can also be managed by appropriate disinfecting and quarantine measures. Pet shops, boarding facilities, animal shelters and responsible breeders need to take steps to prevent the spread of contagious URT infections. These measures include regularly disinfecting all kennels and food and water bowls, keeping newly admitted dogs and puppies quarantined until their health status is known and using modern airway distribution and dispersal systems that deter the spread of respiratory infections. Certainly, pet owners can help to prevent the spread of upper respiratory infections by isolating newly adopted dogs for at least two weeks before they come into contact with other dogs in the household or elsewhere, or by adopting puppies and dogs that have already received appropriate Bordatella, canine distemper and other vaccinations.
Healthy Diet and Lifestyle
Dogs with strong immune systems can often fight off upper respiratory tract and other infections on their own, without treatment. A nutritious diet, plenty of clean air and exercise, a supportive, calm, stress-free environment and what we call “lots of love” all promote a strong, healthy immune system.