Canine disease expert sets record straight on health topics often misunderstood by industry members as well as the media.
Questions and Answers
Brad Fenwick, DVM, PhD, DACVM,
College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee
Are canine influenza and kennel cough the same thing? What is the difference between them?
Canine influenza is one of many microorganisms that can cause respiratory disease in dogs. Kennel cough is the generic term used for the common symptoms that are associated with respiratory infections in dogs. The parallel in humans is a “cold” which can be caused by a number of different infectious organisms. The symptoms in both humans and dogs are similar, including coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and excess tearing.
What are the symptoms of canine influenza/kennel cough?
The symptoms of kennel cough, regardless of cause, include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, excess tearing, reduced activity, and occasionally mild fever. Symptoms generally resolve without need for medical attention in 5 to 14 days.
Is canine influenza/kennel cough deadly?
Only in very rare conditions do the infectious microorganisms that cause kennel cough, including influenza, cause significant disease. More serious disease is typically associated with a secondary infection with a bacterium that results in pneumonia. Fortunately, in these rare cases prompt treatment with the appropriate antibiotics is highly effective.
Are greyhounds the source of canine influenza/kennel cough?
No. Greyhounds are not the source of canine influenza or the other causes of kennel cough, as all dog breeds are susceptible. As in the case with most respiratory diseases, outbreaks are more common in larger populations. While the disease can occur in individual dogs, it is much more common in dog shelters. Reports in greyhounds tend to be more common because of the importance of even a mild infection to the athletic performance of racing greyhounds.
Should greyhounds that show signs of canine influenza/kennel cough be quarantined?
Like all infectious diseases, dogs that show signs of a potentially infectious disease should be kept away from other dogs so that transmission is avoided.
What should you do if your dog develops canine influenza/kennel cough?
Dogs that show signs of respiratory disease should be watched carefully and if there is any significant change in behavior beyond a mild cough, runny nose, and watery eyes should be examined by a veterinarian. If symptoms worsen quickly, it is important that a knowledgeable veterinarian see the dog immediately.
Is there a vaccine for canine influenza/kennel cough?
There are a number of vaccines against many of the microorganisms that can cause kennel cough. Unfortunately, protection is not reliable in all cases. Currently there is no vaccine against canine influenza because the infection is so mild and difficult to reproduce; the value of a vaccine in preventing symptoms has not been demonstrated.
How does canine influenza/kennel cough spread?
Like most microorganisms that cause respiratory infectious, transmission takes place by direct and indirect contact with individuals that are infected and actively shedding the microorganism. Depending on the cause, active shedding takes place during and for a few days following the resolution of symptoms. Disinfection of the environment using standard cleaning materials is helpful
How can you prevent canine influenza/kennel cough from spreading?
By isolating dogs with active symptoms and for a few days after the illness subsides. In addition, you should disinfect the area where the dog is kept and any items with which the dog has come in contact.
How can you prevent your dog from getting canine influenza/kennel cough?
All dogs, particularly puppies and dogs that come into contact with large numbers of other dogs, should be vaccinated. Efforts should be made to avoid contact with dogs that have, or have recently had, symptoms of kennel cough.
What can I do to prevent diseases in my retired greyhound?
There is nothing different about avoiding diseases in retired greyhounds from any other dog breed.
How do I know when I should take my greyhound to see my vet?
As with all dog breeds, periodic examinations by a veterinarian are a good idea. More frequent visits are recommended for puppies and old dogs. Naturally, any sudden changes in behavior or physical changes signal the need to have the dog examined by a veterinarian.
What are the most common greyhound diseases/illnesses?
While racing, the most common diseases in greyhounds involve minor respiratory infectious and gastrointestinal upsets that resolve quickly. In retired racing greyhounds, illnesses are similar to other breeds of dogs. There is an increased occurrence of bone cancer in greyhounds as is the case with a few other large breed dogs.
Brad Fenwick earned a DVM and MS in Pathology from Kansas State University, completed a residency and received a PhD from the University of California Davis, and is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists. His expertise is focused on the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases of animals. He has been involved with racing greyhounds for many years where he is recognized internationally. Currently he is a professor of pathobiology at the University of Tennessee where he also serves as the University’s Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement.