An outbreak of upper respiratory disease in the Charlottesville, Virginia area has recently been in the news. Upper respiratory tract infections occur commonly in dogs and many are highly contagious. Just like cold and flu viruses in people, a coughing or sneezing dog can easily spread the disease to surrounding dogs. The virus particles can survive on surfaces for up to two days so dogs can become infected without any direct contact with another dog.
As a result, almost all dogs have at least some potential risk for upper respiratory infections. Dogs who spend time in close proximity to others at boarding kennels, groomers, and dog parks are at especially high risk and most of these dogs should be regularly vaccinated for bordatella and canine influenza. However, vaccination unfortunately does not guarantee that your dog won’t get sick. Vaccination helps protect against many of the most common known respiratory pathogens, but there are multiple viruses and bacteria for which we do not have vaccines that can cause similar symptoms. If your dog has a cough or nasal discharge it is very important to keep them away from other dogs until your veterinarian says they aren’t contagious so they don’t spread the infection to other dogs.