Q: I got a new puppy from the pound this week and she was fine then a few days ago she started sneezing and coughing. She was still playing and happy but today she is sleeping a lot and has really thick green snot dripping from her nose. She hasn’t eaten since yesterday morning and doesn’t want to get up and move. I called the pound and they said its just a cold and not to worry. What can I do?
A: Congratulations on your new puppy, and thank you for saving a life by adopting from a shelter! I am sorry she is sick. It is very common for dogs to get a “cold” when they have been exposed to large numbers of dogs. We call it CIRD (canine infectious respiratory disease). It is the most common in puppies and unvaccinated dogs.
Many of the dogs that get sick are also full of parasites that further compromise their body’s ability to fight off infection. The stress of being in a new place and the close confinement of many dogs under one roof make it easy for germs to spread.
Many viruses and bacteria can cause CIRD. Influenza, parainfluenza, distemper, adenovirus, herpes virus, Bordatella, mycoplasma, coronavirus, strep zooepidemicus, and reovirus are common viruses isolated in CIRD cases. Some can be prevented by vaccination. It is best to vaccinate for the ones that can be prevented.
Your veterinarian can diagnose it by doing a nasal and throat swab and sending it to the laboratory for identification. The test is expensive so most times it is not done and the dog is treated symptomatically.
Symptoms of CIRD are coughing, hacking, retching, sneezing, discharge from eyes or nose, lethargy, fever and poor appetite. Most cases are mild. Severe cases are rare but can result in pneumonia and even death.
You can do many things to help your dog feel better. He is like a baby that has a cold. He can’t blow his nose and needs help keeping his airway clear.
1. Place him in a warm steamy bathroom two or three times a day to help thin out the mucus and help him breathe.
2. Gently wipe his eyes and nose with a soft tissue as needed. Keep his airway clean.
3. Use nasal saline drops to help thin out the mucus in his nose.
4. Run a vaporizer in his room at night.
5. Make sure he drinks lots of fluids. Water is best but if he is reluctant to eat or drink you can try chicken broth, baby food chicken mixed with water, or ice cubes. You can use can food and water added to his dry food to increase water intake.
6. Avoid using a collar and pulling on his neck and irritating his windpipe. Use a harness for walks.
7. Your dog is very contagious and should stay home and be confined to your house and yard. Do not invite other dogs to your home.
8. Wash your hands and change clothes before leaving your house so that you don’t spread the germs.
9. Keep the air clean and pure. Don’t smoke around your dog and avoid any aerosols or respiratory irritants like sprays, candles, paint or glue.
10. Make sure that your friends’ and family’s dogs are vaccinated against upper respiratory diseases.
Signs that your dog is very sick and may need extra care: failure to eat or drink, having labored or difficult breathing, fever (temperature over 102 degrees), excessive coughing, coughing up thick mucus, vomiting or diarrhea.
Some dogs will need to be nebulized to open the airway and help them breathe. Cough medication may be needed. A virus causes most infections and antibiotics are not helpful. Some dogs will have secondary bacterial infections or pneumonia and may need prescription medications. Severe cases may even need hospitalization but this is very rare.
Most dogs will recover in one to two weeks. They may be contagious for a few weeks after symptoms have resolved.