The respiratory illness canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV) is a highly contagious virus that impacts dogs all over the world. In this post, our Riverbank vets discuss parainfluenza in dogs, including the causes, signs, and treatment options.

Canine Parainfluenza Virus

Parainfluenza's respiratory symptoms in humans are similar to those seen in dog parainfluenza. Both are highly contagious and in dogs, it is often found in areas that are densely populated with other dogs, including kennels and shelters. 

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

Signs of Parainfluenza in Dogs

If a dog is infected with parainfluenza, the age and state of their immune system will dictate the severity and intensity of the symptoms listed below:

  • 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

Also, note that the virus itself may be a component of other canine respiratory diseases, particularly Bordetella (kennel cough) and canine adenovirus-2. 

Causes of Canine Parainfluenza

Viral parainfluenza is an airborne virus. It is so contagious because it is transmitted through the air that dogs breathe. It is especially a concern for dogs who live with or spend a significant amount of time around 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 of contracting the virus and experiencing more extreme symptoms.

Since throat irritation can lead to thick secretions, toy breeds of dogs are more prone to pneumonia if they are infected. 

Diagnosing Parainfluenza in Dogs

The vet will require a detailed medical history of the dog. 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 the pet's whereabouts within 2 to 4 weeks of the first symptoms appearing in your family pet.

A health history and vaccination history will also be required. Any contact with other canines, regardless of the environment in which that contact occurred, could dictate where the dog was infected.

The veterinarian will perform a physical examination, as well as some diagnostic testing, like blood tests, cultures, and testing of fluid and tissue samples. They may also need to use X-rays to determine whether there are any masses or parasitic that could have played a role. Once all of the testing results have been received and analyzed, a treatment plan can be developed to best suit the dog's medical needs.

Treating Parainfluenza in Dogs

Since the virus is highly contagious to other canines, a vet is unlikely to recommend hospitalization unless the situation seems extreme or life-threatening. Instead of hospitalization, the veterinarian may make recommendations to manage the illness, which may 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.

Canine Parainfluenza Vaccine

To prevent a dog from contracting parainfluenza (or greatly reduce their risk), we recommend bringing them to the vet for the appropriate parainfluenza dog vaccine

At River Oak Veterinary Hospital, we give dogs the DHPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus) vaccine between 6 to 8 weeks of age. Then, boosters are administered between 10-12 weeks old, 14-16 weeks old, and 12 months to 16 months old. After that, it is highly recommended to schedule annual vaccinations and routine exams to protect them 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.

Is your dog due for their vaccination or booster? Contact our Riverbank vets to book an appointment and protect your pup.