Furthermore, there is emerging evidence that there are additional viruses that we might start adding to the list very soon. The challenge now for the veterinary staff is to determine how to approach a case of respiratory disease, whether it is just in one dog or in an entire kennel facility.
As bacteria become more resistant to antibiotics, veterinarians are faced with a tough choice of whether or not to use antibiotics. Respiratory infection can have a viral etiology and antibiotics will not actually help. This is a difficult decision for a veterinarian to make unless there is a verified laboratory diagnosis, which is often expensive and has a multiday turnaround time to get results.
What makes a treatment decision even more difficult is that the color and consistency of respiratory mucus is not always the best predictor of the type of an infection. Despite this, dogs in a kennel environment are often co-infected with two or more pathogens. In cases where the dog is very symptomatic, it would be then reasonable to prescribe antibiotics.
Meanwhile, additional medications, such as anti-inflammatories, cough suppressants, and/or bronchodilators (opens the airways) can sometimes be beneficial to help the dog feel better and possibly recover faster.
Despite the challenge of diagnosing and treating a dog, taking care of the facility is an entirely different beast. If the outbreak occurs in a kennel, consider all the dogs exposed until proven otherwise.
The incubation period before symptoms appear can be anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Keep in mind that some of the pathogens in the respiratory disease complex can be shed in respiratory secretions for several weeks after the initial signs of sickness, so impeccable biosecurity is imperative at all times. A few examples of high-quality biosecurity include the following: