“Mysterious” Respiratory Illness and CIRDC

Is there a novel respiratory disease sweeping across the US?  What are the latest updates and what should you do about it?  Dr. Jen Chatfield joins the Professional Animal Care Certification Council (PACCC) and its members to discuss this issue as well as the broader issue of infectious respiratory diseases in dogs.  You can watch a recording of this event that was live streamed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_powaPKy3E&t=9s

Upper respiratory infections (URIs) can be one of the most frustrating issues for pet owners, pet care providers, and veterinary teams. As American dogs and dogs everywhere continue their rapid social ascension, URIs are clearly not going away and are likely to increase in frequency. What does this mean for us as purveyors of dog care, and what does it mean for our dog owning clients and their dogs.  

A few Important Take-Aways

  • Almost all respiratory infections in dogs are multi pathogenic meaning that more than one infectious agent – viral or bacterial is present.  
  • The highest tested pathogen thus far this year has been mycoplasma, which is a bacterial infection with no vaccine available.  


Parainfluenza vs. Canine Influenza

  • Canine flu – H3N2 – is a novel virus in the immunologically naive dog population in the United States which means that dogs who get sick from this virus will have more severe symptoms than they will from other respiratory ailments.  The risk profile for Bordetella and canine influenza is now comparable so dogs who interact with other dogs, especially with frequency or in high volume settings, should be vaccinated for both Bordetella and canine influenza.
  • Most dogs receive the parainfluenza vaccine automatically in a cocktail that includes the vaccine for parvovirus, distemper, and (usually) hepatitis.  The canine influenza vaccine is not routinely given as Canine Flu – H3N2 – is relatively new to the United States.  Even though parainfluenza is given annually, because it occurs in the top four pathogenic combinations ultimately causing HIRD*, Dr. Chatfield recommends boosting for parainfluenza every six months.   *I have an email out to Dr. Chatfield asking her to cite her source for this statement.


  • Dr. Chatfield does not find X-rays to be very helpful and feels that vets should be running PCR tests on dogs that present with respiratory illnesses, both to formulate a more precise treatment plan and also to gain a better understanding of what pathogen, or multi pathogenic infections may be on the rise in the community.  
  • However, as we learned from the recent pandemic, false negatives do happen with PCR testing.  PCR results can be corroborated with additional titers testing for anyone concerned about a false negative.


It is worth noting that no vaccine is 100% effective.  This is why Dr. Chatfield recommends that clients who are especially concerned about CIRD (Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease), or more specifically owners of immunocompromised dogs, elderly dogs, very young puppies, or brachycephalic breeds, boost their dogs against Bordetella, and parainfluenza every six months instead of once per year.  Dr. Chatfield also recommends that clients opt for intranasal vaccinations over injections.   For the most comprehensive and robust immunity, she further recommends vaccinating on a rotating six-month schedule between intramuscular and intranasal vaccinations.

Preventative Care

  • Dogs can come into contact with known pathogens when out on a walk even if there are no other dogs present!  For any pathogen – frequent and lengthy hand washing, and sanitization of surfaces is a must.  And hand sanitizer alone will not cut it!  
  • We can find bacterial agents and known virus profiles in the noses of healthy dogs!  CIRD agents are omnipresent all the time, but they rarely make a dog sick until they are combined opportunistically which is why good hygiene and sanitation practices are paramount.  
  • Peroxide based cleansers are always a good choice for any facility due to their safety and efficacy. 
  • The good news is that canine influenza is not good at surviving in the environment; it can live on hard surfaces for a maximum of 48 hours.  UV light inactivates it, therefore, the risk profile for contraction is lower outdoors.  Additionally, it does not survive well on soft surfaces such as clothes.  With that said, owners or staff who have interacted with a dog that is positive for H3N2 should change their clothes before interacting with another dog. 
  • 70% of a dog’s immune system is contained in the gut; therefore, if a dog presents with chronic loose stools then the dog is likely immunocompromised in some way.  Dr. Chatfield recommends Full Bucket probiotic supplements and a consultation with a veterinary nutritionist for dogs suffering frequent indigestion issues who are known to be free of parasites.  


The class of antibiotics that is showing the most positive results in CIRD this year is doxycycline.  Mycoplasmas are inherently resistant to penicillin, but they are susceptible to doxycycline.  Paxlovid does not tend to work for dogs.  Chloramphenicol is typically only prescribed if the dog has not responded to other antibiotics.

Closing Remark

Dr. Chatfield does not feel there is a new or novel mysterious canine virus infiltrating our dog population but rather increased dog ownership and a sensationalist news media which has capitalized on slightly increased rates of CIRD, but that the CIRD has been caused by already known multi-pathogens.

Please be cognizant of your source information as not all sources are created equal.  Look for news articles published by reputable sources citing peer reviewed studies and data that has been fact-checked.  Anecdotal evidence is typically unhelpful. 

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