Thursday, November 30, 2023: | Listened to an online presentation concerning the Canine Respiratory Disease issue. The lecture was hosted by Trupanion, a veterinary insurance company. The statistics presented were the result of reported respiratory claims submitted to Trupanion. The four veterinarians involved in the panel are well-known experts on disease presence and surveillance.

Several factors were reported to help explain the apparent increase in reported cases. There is an increase in the number of dogs. This is the result of new pets acquired during the Covid period. There has been a disruption in veterinary care. Fewer animals are vaccinated for standard diseases. There is an increase in interaction between dogs (dog parks, daycare, boarding, population density, etc).

The number of claims reported varies state by state. In California, an increase of 6.2% claims, Oregon 61.86%, Nevada 43.05%, and Kentucky 5.41%. The average increase in the number of claims went from less than 10 cases up to a high of 132 claims. Remember these are the numbers of reported claims by an insurance company.

There are many concerns about a new “bug” whether viral or bacterial. The veterinary laboratories and schools are working on isolating any new organism. Several years ago there was a new organism found in a human, named lola KY 405. There were a few other isolates of this organism reported in people only the next year. It apparently is a small mycoplasma organism. Mycoplasma are small bacteria that have no cell wall and can infect many tissues, the respiratory tract being more common.

There are three primary canine vaccines for respiratory diseases, Parainfluenza, Bordatella, and Canine influenza. Vaccines are readily available for these diseases. Although there has been an intermittent shortage of Flu vaccine (H3N2) supplies, seems steady at this time.

There are subsets of dogs that are at higher risk of respiratory disease. Young puppies, older dogs, brachiocephalic breeds, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs and immune-compromised patients. These flat-faced breeds have a shorter nasal airway and are therefore more compromised. The French Bulldog is now the most popular breed in this country.

We have to also take into account exposure issues. Kennels, daycare facilities, and especially dog parks have increased exposure issues. Perhaps the best solution is to think of our recent Covid lockdown procedure. Avoid kennels, daycare (if possible) and for sure the dog parks. Kennels require vaccination proof to have pets there. Dog parks do not!

One issue in dealing with respiratory disease is lab costs. A canine respiratory panel can run $200 to $300 or more. Many pet owners would rather not pay those kinds of fees but rather just treat the pet, which is understandable but makes tracking the disease difficult without absolute proof.

Treatment issues vary. As in human medicine antibiotics do not treat viral disease. The few death losses were due to bacterial or viral pneumonia resulting from the respiratory compromise. An antibiotic, Doxycycline, is the best first choice for respiratory disease, at least the bacterial component and includes mycoplasma. There is no real effective antiviral treatment. Like our common cold it will run its course if the immune system isn’t overpowered.

There are some reports and questions about the use of an antibiotic used for swine pink eye. This antibiotic is chloramphenicol or under the trade name Chloromycetin. This is a great antibiotic but has several side effect issues. In humans, it can cause blood dyscrasias, such as aplastic anemia, thrombocytopenia and other blood issues which could result in leukemia. Dog side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, muscle weakness or incoordination. People should wear gloves even when handling the capsules and be sure to avoid any accidental exposure especially with children.

The bottom line at this time is fairly straightforward. First, avoid, when possible high exposure areas, dog parks. Keep current on all other vaccines, DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parvo and parainfluenza), bordatella (the bacterial side of kennel cough), and consider canine flu vaccine (H3N2). §

Consider the big picture. If your pet is eating, relatively active, some sneezing or mild coughing, do like we do for the common cold, drink fluids, eat, rest. Keep the pet isolated and home. We don’t run off to the doctor for our minor colds. If the symptoms are more severe then consider seeing the veterinarian. There may be isolation concerns which will be addressed when an appointment is made.