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Parainfluenza in Dogs - What You Need to Know

Canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV) is a highly contagious virus that causes respiratory illness in dogs. In this article, our veterinarians in Bellevue will describe the symptoms pet parents should watch for, the causes of parainfluenza in dogs, and how it is treated.

What is parainfluenza virus infection in dogs?

Parainfluenza virus infection in dogs, often referred to as canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV) infection, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that affects dogs. It is caused by the canine parainfluenza virus, which belongs to the family Paramyxoviridae.

Parainfluenza virus is one of the several pathogens involved in the complex of diseases commonly known as canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC), also referred to as "kennel cough." 

Transmission of parainfluenza virus occurs through the respiratory secretions of infected dogs, such as coughing, sneezing, or direct contact with contaminated surfaces. The virus primarily targets the respiratory tract, causing inflammation and irritation of the upper respiratory tract, including the trachea and bronchi.

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

What are the causes of parainfluenza virus infection in dogs?

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.

How is the parainfluenza virus diagnosed 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 two to four 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 conduct a physical examination and various diagnostic tests, including blood tests, cultures, and analysis of fluid and tissue samples. Imaging techniques like radiography (X-ray) may also check for masses or parasitic involvement. Once all the test results have been received and analyzed, a treatment plan will be developed and put into action.

What is the treatment of 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.
  • 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 & Prevention

Preventing parainfluenza virus infection in dogs involves vaccination, practicing good hygiene, minimizing exposure to infected animals and environments, and providing optimal care to maintain overall health and immunity.

Vaccination against the parainfluenza virus is typically included in the core vaccinations given to puppies and adult dogs to protect against common infectious diseases.

Regular veterinary check-ups and adherence to recommended vaccination schedules are essential for maintaining optimal health and preventing the spread of infectious diseases among dogs.

At Aerowood Animal Hospital, we highly recommend that all dogs receive the DHPP shot (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus) between six to eight weeks of age. Then booster shots should be given when the dog is 10-12 weeks old, 14-16 weeks old, and 12 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.

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 the parainfluenza virus, please contact our vets in Bellevue immediately.

New Patients Welcome

At Aerowood Animal Hospital, we are always accepting new patients. Our experienced veterinary team is passionate about the health of companion animals in the Bellevue area and can't wait to welcome you and your pet to our veterinary family.

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