Upper respiratory disease is seen in both dogs and cats, and is one of the more common reasons pets are brought into the vet. If the underlying cause of the upper respiratory disease is infectious, than it is contagious! However, these infections tend to be species specific, meaning that they don’t transfer from dogs to cats and vice versa. We also cannot catch a cold from our pets, nor spread our cold germs to them. Transfer of upper respiratory infections most commonly involves direct contact via secretions, but can also be from contaminated materials such as our clothing or hands after petting, pet bedding, contaminated cages/crates, etc. Symptoms of respiratory disease are sneezing, coughing, discharge from the eyes and nose, decreased appetite, wheezing, congestion, and open mouth breathing in more extreme feline cases. There can be multiple causes of respiratory disease. The most common underlying agents tend to be viral infections, however pets can get secondary bacterial infections, pneumonias, and in some instances have congestion due to inhaled allergens. Stress situations can sometimes contribute to exacerbation of these conditions, as can environmental allergens such as dust, smoke, etc. Non contagious causes of respiratory disease are fungal, foreign bodies, parasites, tumors/polyps, immune mediated disease, and dental disease.
In both dogs and cats, vaccines are available to try and protect against some of the more common infectious contagions. In cats common causative agents are Herpes virus, Calici virus, Mycoplasma, and Chlamydia. In dogs common agents are Bordetella Bronchiseptica, Parainfluenza, Adenovirus, and in rare instances Canine Influenza.
If your pet is having any respiratory concerns, please bring them in so that we can better assess what the underlying cause may be, how to approach treatment, and how to try and limit any worsening and spread.