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Preventative Pet Health Care Series: Parainfluenza Virus in Dogs

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Canine parainfluenza virus is a highly contagious respiratory virus in dogs.  It should not be confused with canine influenza, which is most prevalent on racetracks and among the type of dogs that live there (Greyhounds); but is a separate and distinct virus, much less common than parainfluenza virus.  Since infection may spread via the air or through the inhalation or ingestion of respiratory secretions from an infected dog; and given that an infected dog will continue to be contagious for 2 weeks beyond cessation of clinical signs of disease, just about any dog is at risk to become infected with parainfluenza virus in the course of his/her lifetime.  Puppies and senior age dogs are at highest risk for infection.

Clinical signs of disease include:

–          Cough

–          Nasal discharge

–          Lack of energy

–          Fever

–          Poor appetite

Many cases of parainfluenza are self-limiting, with healthy adult dogs often having the ability to overcome the virus without veterinary intervention.  However, it is not uncommon for secondary bacterial infection to complicate cases of parainfluenza and lead to bronchitis, bronchopneumonia, or pneumonia.  Thus, it is advisable to seek veterinary care in the event that a dog is showing the aforementioned signs.

Treatment for uncomplicated parainfluenza virus that remains in the upper respiratory region includes cough suppressants, steam nebulization, and antibiotics to prevent/treat secondary bacterial opportunistic infections.  In cases of complicated parainfluenza virus infection where there is bronchopneumonia or pneumonia, treatment is most effective in hospital with intravenous fluids, intravenous antibiotics, and if necessary, an oxygen cage.

There is an effective vaccine against parainfluenza virus that is administered as part of the core DHPP combination vaccine.  The DHPP is administered at 6, 9, and 12 weeks of age, then booster and 1 year later.  After the 1 year booster, the DHPP vaccine is administered once every 3 years.  Parainfluenza immunization also comes of 3 one component in a trivalent kennel cough vaccine against Bordetella, and canine adenovirus type I, 2 other common canine respiratory pathogens.  Kennel cough vaccine is administered commonly for high-risk patients (dogs who frequent kennel’s, grooming facilities, and or dog Parks) as a 1 year immunization.

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.

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