If you’re one of the many (many) people asking about what to do in the midst of a canine respiratory disease outbreak, or someone who just wants to know what to do to reduce everyday risk of CIRDC, here are some basic pointers:
The microbes that cause respiratory disease in dogs are primarily spread by direct contact between dogs, especially nose-to-nose contact and licking. People can play a minor role as vectors, e.g. if you get contaminated by dog saliva or respiratory secretions (especially on your hands!) and then have contact with another dog. The role of the environment isn’t clear, but there’s some potential risk as many of the microbes in question can survive for a little while outside the dog. “Mouth contact” items such as food bowls and toys presumably pose the greatest risk.
As ever, infection control isn’t rocket science. The keys are some basic practices and common sense, and our approach to canine infectious respiratory disease is similar to messaging directed at influenza control in people:
- If your dog is sick, keep it at home, ideally for 1-2 weeks after recovery. Don’t visit the dog park or go to any “doggie socials”.
- If your dog has been exposed to a sick dog, keep it at home (same idea).
- Limit contact of your dog with other dogs. That doesn’t mean never let your dog see another dog, but ideally limit the number of different dogs with which it has close interactions. Playing with the same group of dogs every day is lower risk than playing with different groups every day.
- Consider limiting access to dog-heavy areas such as off-leash parks if there is an apparent outbreak in your area.
- Talk to your veterinarian about vaccination. We can’t vaccinate against all of the causes of CIRDC, but vaccines can help reduce the risk of some of the main players.
- If your dog is at higher risk of complications (e.g. chronic respiratory or heart disease, immunocompromised), be particularly careful and more restrictive.
Above all, relax. There’s always some risk of exposure, just like there’s always some risk that you will encounter someone shedding influenza. You (hopefully) don’t lock yourself away in your house all winter to avoid flu season. Similarly, you shouldn’t lock your (healthy) dog up and stress about it.