Column: Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex and what dog owners need to know

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Flu and cold season is upon us this year — and our canine companions aren’t exempt. You may have seen recent reports about a respiratory disease that is infecting dogs in parts of the United States.

I asked our Chief Veterinarian and Animal Care Officer, Dr. Maria Pyrdek, to write a guest column this week to inform you about this sometimes-fatal disease. Dr. Pyrdek (who we affectionately call Dr. P) writes:

This fall veterinarians in Oregon, Colorado and San Fernando Valley reported clusters of dogs with coughs and pneumonia that were not responsive to treatment. Some of these dogs became very ill very fast, and unfortunately, a few passed despite aggressive treatment.

These outbreaks were all linked to dogs who had been in boarding facilities, doggie day cares and dog parks, where many dogs were interacting. Similar cases have been reported in LA County and Pasadena, and more cases are expected to be reported in the next few weeks.

This disease is called Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex.

A diagnosis is made when a dog meets the following criteria: chronic cough and/or pneumonia that is minimally responsive or non-responsive to antibiotics, coupled with a negative test result on a Canine Respiratory Panel PCR performed by a veterinarian.

The way this disease is spreading indicates that it is likely caused by a long-standing pathogen in our dog population that we have not diagnosed before, rather than a completely new disease.

Remember, coughing can be caused by many things other than CIRDC — such as allergies, heart disease, trauma and infectious agents — so it’s important to not panic at every dog that coughs.

Also, there is no evidence that CIRDC can pass from dogs to humans.

However, vigilance is needed to protect our furry friends. If your dog is exhibiting persistent coughing or nasal discharge, take them to the vet ASAP and listen to your veterinarian!

While a PCR test may seem expensive, getting a diagnosis earlier in the course of disease will help to make sure your dog receives the right treatment.

Most cases of CIRDC resolve after a few weeks of supportive care, but some cases will require more specific treatment. It is also important to follow your veterinarian’s guidelines on isolating your dog.

Current recommendations are to isolate dogs that test positive for 28 days after the first sign of illness and to quarantine dogs that have been exposed to the disease for 14 days.

As a pet owner myself, I know new diseases can be scary. Luckily, there are many things we can do as pet owners to protect our canine loved ones.

First and foremost: keep your pet up to date on vaccines. Limit your dog’s exposure to high-risk environments where many different dogs who may be sick or unvaccinated are coming and going. Also, do not let your dog drink from communal water dishes.

For those of you who work with animals, if a dog develops symptoms while in your care, isolating the dog, maximizing ventilation and disinfecting immediately will minimize the chance of spread.

Continue to disinfect frequently touched surfaces, like doorknobs, with a freshly mixed bleach solution or (my favorite) accelerated peroxide solution.

At Pasadena Humane, we are monitoring our population carefully. Respiratory disease among shelter dogs is common. The more stressed the dogs are or the longer they spend in the shelter, the higher the chance of infection.

By far the most helpful thing the public can do to keep our shelter pets safe is to adopt or foster dogs to get them out of the shelter!


Thank you, Dr. P! For readers who are interested in helping by adopting or fostering a shelter dog, please go to

Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane. This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on December 11, 2023.