What animal shelters need to know when it’s not kennel cough after all

Every shelter dreads it: the sound of dogs coughing. It might mean kennel cough… or it might not. Do you know how to identify the pathogens behind the outbreak, and how to respond?

As part of the University of Florida’s Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program track at the 2013 No More Homeless Pets National Conference, Cynda Crawford, DVM, PhD, gave attendees an overview of canine respiratory illness in shelter dogs. She covered:

  • How to recognize canine respiratory infections — and know when something new or unusual is brewing in your population
  • How to diagnose both older and emerging infections
  • The critical importance of antibiotics in kennel cough outbreaks
  • How to know an outbreak is happening at the earliest moment
  • Surveillance and response protocols for respiratory diseases, both familiar and new

One of the newer pathogens covered by Dr. Crawford is the canine respiratory coronavirus:

This is actually a very, very common cause of kennel cough in shelter dogs. Many shelters are endemic for canine respiratory coronavirus. It’s always there. As long as new dogs keep coming in… there is always going to be a low level of canine respiratory coronavirus infection. You’ll always have sick dogs.




Now, this coronavirus is not the same as canine enteric coronavirus. I find that’s a frequent misunderstanding. Because when shelters learn through diagnostic testing that they actually have canine respiratory coronavirus and not Bordetella or some of the more traditional pathogens causing a spike in their kennel cough cases, they go to their vaccine distributors and start ordering the DAPP with killed canine enteric coronavirus in it, thinking they’ll add that to the armamentarium of preventive vaccines to give at admissions. There is no cross-protection between enteric coronavirus and respiratory coronavirus.


There isn’t a vaccine. If it’s in your shelter, it’s going to just be there. You almost have to accept it, unless you can shut down totally and let it work its way through all the dogs and finally burn out, and then open your doors again.

You can view the complete presentation below, and also download and listen to the audio version, or read the transcript.