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Dog Health: A Primer on Upper Respiratory Infections

MDVSS Upper Respiratory Infections

Upper respiratory infections are common in dogs, and most of the time, they’ll resolve themselves without medical intervention.

It is never enjoyable to see our dogs get sick, and one of the more common illnesses that affect dogs is upper respiratory infections. This illness is especially common in dogs that are boarded at a kennel or spend time at a doggy daycare. When in close proximity to other dogs, it is not unusual for sickness to spread—thankfully, upper respiratory infections are often self-limiting and not life-threatening to the majority of dogs.

What is it?

An upper respiratory infection is a viral or bacterial infection that affects a dog’s nose, sinus, and trachea. It’s different from a lower respiratory infection, which typically occurs in the bronchi and lungs. Upper respiratory infections are common in dogs, and symptoms tend to be mild. Severe infections can and do occur, especially in puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with underlying medical conditions that weaken their immune system.


The most common and easily-identifiable symptom of an upper respiratory infection is a cough that sounds like a goose honk. Other symptoms can include nasal discharge, coughing up foamy saliva, eye discharge, lack of appetite, fatigue, and even fever. While symptoms are typically mild, a more severe case can cause a dog to deteriorate quickly. It can also cause secondary problems, such as pneumonia. If your dog’s condition starts to worsen, get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible for medical intervention.


For the majority of upper respiratory infections, the infection will be self-limiting and won’t require medical treatment. The best course of action is to limit exercise, use a humidifier or keep the dog in a room with the shower running to produce steam, make sure their collar isn’t pulling on their neck, and keep their eyes and nose clear of mucus. For bacterial infections that cause a decrease in appetite and energy, trouble breathing, or a fever, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics.

It’s Highly Contagious

One of the important things to remember about upper respiratory infections is that they are potentially highly contagious. Due to this, they commonly spread rapidly through dog kennels and doggy daycare centers. The infection is spread when the dog coughs, sneezes, or touches other dogs with its nose. A period of quarantine following illness will prevent further spread in the canine community. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations on the length of quarantine based on the suspected illness. 

Trust Maryland Veterinary Surgical Services With Your Companion’s Health

Your companion’s health is important, and the team at MVSS is ready to provide the best care possible for your furry family. We are dedicated to combining comprehensive exams and assessments with informative and honest discussions of your companion’s care. Once we have worked with you to decide on the best course of action for your dog, our professionals will use their surgical expertise to work towards the goal of giving your companion an active and pain-free life. We are proud to serve loyal companions in Catonsville and Baltimore. To learn more about our services, give us a call at 410-788-4088 or visit us online. For more information and tips for pet health, follow us on Facebook and Pinterest.

This entry was posted on Friday, December 9th, 2022 at 3:45 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.