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Parainfluenza in Dogs

Dogs all over the world are at risk for respiratory illness caused by canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV), a highly contagious ribonucleic acid virus. Here, our Rancho Cucamonga vets list causes and symptoms of parainfluenza in dogs and how it's treated. 

What is the parainfluenza virus?

Parainfluenza's respiratory symptoms are similar to those seen in dogs with canine influenza. However, these viruses are markedly different and will require different vaccinations and treatments. Both are highly contagious and are often found in areas that are densely populated with dogs, including kennels, shelters and race tracks. 

The highly contagious parainfluenza virus infection infects the lungs and can cause infectious tracheobronchitis, also referred to as 'kennel cough'

What are the signs of parainfluenza in dogs?

Severity and intensity of the symptoms of parainfluenza listed below can carry depending on the infected dog's age and the host's immune system:

  • Coughing - This may either be a dry cough or moist and productive (with blood)
  • Decreased energy 
  • Decreased appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Nose discharge - may include pus, mucus or blood

Keep in mind that the virus itself may be a component of other canine respiratory diseases, particularly bordetella, kennel cough and canine adenovirus-2. 

What causes parainfluenza in dogs?

Viral parainfluenza is transmitted via the air dogs breathe. This is why it's so contagious, especially for dogs who live with or spend a significant amount of time with other dogs. 

Related to canine distemper, parainfluenza shares respiratory symptoms with that condition including a hacking dry cough and inflammation of the bronchial tubes, trachea and larynx. Puppies and senior dogs with compromised immune systems are at higher risk. Because throat irritation can lead to thick secretions, toy breeds are more prone to pneumonia. 

The symptoms of canine parainfluenza virus infections are listed below. The severity or intensity of these symptoms may vary depending on the age of the infected dog and the host's immune system:

  • 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
  • Decreased energy
  • 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.

What causes parainfluenza 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 your dog has recovered from the infection, other dogs can still pick up the virus in the air for up to two weeks. 

How is parainfluenza diagnosed?

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 has 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.

How do you treat parainfluenza in dogs?

Because the virus is highly contagious to other canines, 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.

Is there a vaccine for dog parainfluenza?

Yes, there is. To prevent your dog from contracting parainfluenza (or greatly reduce their risk), we recommend bringing your dog in for the appropriate vaccine. 

At Rancho Regional Veterinary Hospital, we give dogs the DHPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus) vaccine between 6 to 8 weeks of age. Then we give boosters between 10-12 weeks old, 14-16 weeks old, and 12 months to 16 months old. After that, it is highly recommended to schedule your dog's annual vaccinations and routine exam to protect them from parainfluenza and a host of other diseases too.

Is your dog displaying any signs of parainfluenza, or do they require vaccinations? Contact our Rancho Cucamonga animal hospital to schedule an appointment for an exam.

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