Respiratory Illnesses

While our veterinary staff ensures that every animal is healthy prior to adoption, being in close quarters with other animals and the stress of transitioning to a new home can cause cats and dogs to get a respiratory illness similar to a human “cold.” These illnesses may be caused by bacteria or a virus and can spread readily between animals of the same species, but they are not contagious to humans and are unlikely to be transmitted between species.

Most of these “colds” are not serious, but it’s important to monitor your new pet for symptoms and take them to your vet if you have concerns or if symptoms persist for more than a day.

Feline Upper Respiratory Infection

Feline upper respiratory infection (URI) is the common term for a respiratory infection caused by one or more viral or bacterial agents and is similar to a common cold in humans. It is especially common in cats who have been exposed to a lot of other cats, such as in an animal shelter or feral cat colonies. Herpesvirus and Calicivirus are responsible for approximately 90% of all feline URIs. The signs of an upper respiratory infection include:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose (clear or cloudy in appearance and containing pus)
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membranes lining the eyelids)
  • Ulcers on the tongue, lips, nose, or roof of the mouth
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Decreased energy, lethargy

Susceptible cats can get an infection by direct contact with another infected cat or by environmental exposure to objects that have been contaminated with infectious secretions such as food and water bowls, litter boxes, toys, and bedding. Since the viruses and bacteria do not survive for long periods of time outside the host, most cases of URI are through direct contact with an infected animal. It’s a good idea to isolate cats who are showing signs of the illness. In addition, the viruses and bacteria are readily destroyed by proper disinfection procedures and good handwashing after handling sick cats.

It’s important that you monitor your new kitty for the signs of infection and see your veterinarian if signs persist for more than one day. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or other treatments as needed. 

Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease

Our dogs all receive veterinary care and core vaccinations, but occasionally, despite our best efforts to keep them protected, they may have been exposed to certain dog diseases before or during their stay with us. 

Canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD) or “kennel cough” is a commonly seen condition in dogs, and especially those in shelters or kennels. There are several bacterial and viral diseases that can cause CIRD, including Bordatella and canine influenza. CIRD is spread from dog to dog via direct contact or aerosolized respiratory secretions (similar to a common cold spreading easily between children at a daycare). 

Typically CIRD is mild and self-limiting, but rare cases may progress to pneumonia. Because symptoms may not show up for several days after exposure to disease, it is important that you monitor your new pup for the following signs and see your veterinarian if signs persist for more than one day. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or other treatments as needed. 

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from nose
  • Discharge from eyes
  • Decrease appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing