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Parainfluenza in Dogs

Parainfluenza is a contagious disease most commonly spread among dogs that spend time in social environments. Here, our Picayune vets share the symptoms of parainfluenza in dogs, how it spreads and what can be done to prevent it.

What is parainfluenza in dogs?

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 dog race tracks, shelters, and kennels.

The parainfluenza virus infection is a highly contagious viral lung infection that can cause infectious tracheobronchitis, also known as 'kennel cough.' This condition is transmitted through the air and direct contact with water droplets from the infected animal.

Symptoms of Parainfluenza in Dogs

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 (dry cough or moist and productive)
  • Low-grade fever
  • Discharge from the nose (mucus, pus or even blood)
  • Decreased energy
  • Decreased appetite

Note that the virus can be a component of other canine respiratory diseases, most notably kennel cough, Bordetella, and canine adenovirus-2.

How the Parainfluenza Virus Affects 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.

Diagnosing Parainfluenza in Dogs

When you speak with your vet, they will ask for a complete history of your dog if they do not already have the information. This can help to determine the likelihood of your dog contracting the virus. The parainfluenza virus is easily spread in boarding kennels, grooming salons, and other places where many 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.

You will need to provide your vet with any information about dogs that you have been in contact with recently.

The veterinarian will perform a physical examination and some veterinary diagnostics, such as 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 the testing results have been received and analyzed, a treatment plan will be developed and implemented.

Treatment Options for Parainfluenza in Dogs

If your dog has suspected parainfluenza, your vet will ask you to keep them at home. This is because the virus is incredibly contagious. 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.

Prevention for Parainfluenza in Dogs

Parainfluenza in dogs can be prevented using a vaccine. This vaccine helps to increase immunity, allowing your dog to be better protected against the virus. This will reduce the risk of your dog contracting parainfluenza and lessen the severity if an infection does occur.

This works by causing dogs to recognize the virus and begin to make antibodies against it. If your dog is exposed to this infection in the future, their immune system will be able to respond much more quickly than it could before the vaccination.

At Picayune Veterinary Clinic, we perform routine vaccinations on all of our dog patients following a carefully laid out vaccination plan that helps provide your dog with the best protection possible. The vaccine we use for parainfluenza is referred to as the DHPP vaccine. The DHPP vaccine not only protects against parainfluenza but distemper, hepatitis (adenovirus-2) and parvo as well. This makes it a crucial part of your dog's routine vaccine schedule.

Side Effects of Vaccinations

While reactions and side effects related to the DHPP vaccine are rare, they do happen. The good news is that they are usually mild and short-lived if they do happen. Rarely, some dogs may experience serious reactions and complications that require emergency veterinary care. You must reach out to your vet or nearest emergency animal hospital immediately if your dog begins to show any concerning symptoms.

Some of the side effects that can occur include:

  • Pain and swelling at the injection site
  • Mild fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Weakness
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Skin rash

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.

Would you like to schedule your dog for routine vaccinations or other preventive care? Contact our Picayune vets today to book an appointment.

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