Kennel Cough Outbreak in D.C. - Things to Know

Before you board your pet for Thanksgiving, keep these things in mind.

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Nov 22, 2023

Notice of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC) Spread

Dear Canine Friends and Families,

We are writing this letter to share our concern and give advice about the Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC) occurrence in the United States, now including the Washington DC area.  In the last several weeks, our clinic has noticed an increase in dogs being persistently affected with CIRDC, also known as Kennel Cough Complex.  We would like to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and share some ways we can partner to keep our dog families safe.  

What is CIRDC?

CIRDC is an infection of the upper and lower airways caused by a virus or bacteria (most commonly Bordetella). As opposed to most cases of CIRDC that resolve within 7-10 days with supportive care (and sometimes with the addition of antibiotics), we have seen several cases that are only partially responding to initial therapy or not responding at all. Some dogs have had issues with severe coughing, chronic or non-resolving coughing, or even progression to pneumonia (infection in the lungs, as opposed to just in the airways).  While most healthy, adult dogs recover well from CIRDC, some dogs in this recent outbreak have gotten sick very quickly and have had to be hospitalized. There have also been reports of some dogs in other states dying from very severe disease. We have seen many cases that resemble classical CIRDC cases respond well to treatment, so we know not all of our canine patients are being exposed to the same infectious agent.

What is the cause of the outbreak?  

The cause of this more robust pathogen is still not known, but it is suspected that a novel (new) virus may be the cause for many patients.  Detection and surveillance began in Oregon, and we have since seen rapid spread throughout the United States, including the northeast and Washington DC.  Please know that we are collaborating with our local emergency hospital colleagues to stay knowledgeable about the current neighborhood situation.

Is CIRDC contagious to humans?  

Of the current CIRDC organisms, only Bordetella bronchiseptica is known to spread from dogs to people; however, the spread of B. bronchiseptica to people is very uncommon and most likely to occur in immunocompromised people.  If you are concerned, please visit your physician.

What can I do to protect my dog and reduce CIRDC from spreading (especially as we enter the holiday travel and boarding season)?

  • Keep Vaccines current for those that make up the Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex, such as Bordetella and Canine Influenza Virus vaccine.  Vaccines not only reduce the chance of your dog becoming ill, but they also make them less likely to develop severe disease or spread the infection to other dogs.
  • Remember, dogs can be contagious and still look perfectly healthy.  Limit your dog’s time around other dogs, if possible. This is particularly important in pets with underlying chronic conditions, those that are immunocompromised or on immunosuppressive medications, and senior pets. Limiting exposure may mean:
  • Reducing or temporarily suspending time at doggy daycare
    - Limiting time in boarding facilities and considering in-home pet-sitters, if possible
    - Avoiding dog parks and other public areas, when possible
    - Minimize sharing toys, food and water bowls used by dogs outside your household.
    - Delay or avoid travel with your dog to places where outbreaks are occurring.  Stay informed by asking your veterinarian or checking news or internet resources about places where CIRDC, or more specific respiratory infections like canine influenza, have been reported.
  • Monitor your dog closely for any of the following respiratory signs.  If you notice any of these, separate your dog immediately from other dogs, including in the same household.  
    - Coughing
    - Productive Coughing (i.e. mucus from the mouth after coughing)
    - Sneezing
    - Nasal or ocular (eye) discharge
    - Rapid or labored breathing
    - Lethargy or weakness
    - Decreased appetite or anorexia (refusing food)
    - Fever

Please schedule an appointment with us for further assessment if you have any questions or concerns. If you are out of town, an appointment cannot be scheduled within 2-3 days with us, or if worsening and/or more severe signs are noted (such as excessive coughing, rapid or labored breathing, significant lethargy, or anorexia), please seek same-day urgent or emergency hospital care. Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG) is located at 925 H street NE, just a few blocks away from our location.

Thank you for our partnership and  for being such loving dog parents!

Your Neighborhood Veterinarian,
Parker & Ace