Coronavirus and CIRD-Complex: How To Protect Your Dog From Respiratory Diseases?

February 26, 2020

One cannot listen to the news, scan the newspaper, or look at social media without there being a mention of the Coronavirus.  While there are a host of interesting and scary things about the Coronavirus, one of the things that is fascinating is the similarities between stopping the spread of Coronavirus and stopping the spread of CIRD-Complex.

Similarities between Coronavirus and CIRD-Complex

Before going any further, let’s assume that, today, everyone knows what Coronavirus is, but what is CIRD-Complex?  CIRD-Complex stands for “Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease – Complex.” This is currently the preferred way to refer to canine cough since in most cases we really don’t know which out of a host of possible pathogens or viruses is causing a dog to cough.

So, what is the similarity and what makes both Coronavirus and CIRD-Complex so hard to stop from spreading? Both can be spread by people (or dogs) that are symptom free! It is for this reason that people returning to the United States from impacted areas are being quarantined for two weeks: just because they aren’t coughing (showing symptoms) does not mean that they are not infected and capable of spreading this disease. People seem to get both the need for the quarantine (even if they are not happy about it) AND that it is unbelievably hard to stop something from spreading when there are no symptoms.

What can we learn from the spread of the Coronavirus?

If people understand this about Coronavirus, why don’t they understand this about dogs and CIRD-Complex?  When a dog walks into a veterinary facility, a dog groomer, a doggie day care or anywhere else and is not showing any symptoms, how is the veterinarian, dog groomer of pet care professional to know whether or not the dog is really spreading a pathogen or virus to other dogs?  Sure, once a dog shows symptoms the veterinarian, dog groomer, or other pet care professional has knowledge that something is spreading they have an obligation to take action – but up until that point?

Just as with the Coronavirus, it is usually impossible to say exactly where a dog was exposed to the CIRD-complex.  Was it at the dog park? The veterinarian’s office waiting room? In the elevator of your high-rise apartment building that is used by other dogs even if there was no other dog in there with you (yup this stuff can live on the walls for up to 48 hours)?  Did the dog that is coughing 4 days after being with your dog give your dog CIRD-Complex or did your dog (which of course was not coughing at the time) infect the other dog (yes, your dog can be the carrier and infect another dog and that dog can start coughing BEFORE your dog starts to cough)?

Yikes, it’s complicated to track!

What to do if my dog gets CIRD-Complex?

Stopping the spread of an upper respiratory disease is hard enough, but stopping the spread of an asymptomatic upper respiratory disease is super hard! Thankfully most CIRD-Complex issues can be treated with medicine and rest.  Equally importantly, there are vaccines for two common causes of CIRD-Complex: bordetella and CIV (the “dog flu”). So please get your dog vaccinated, work with pet care professionals that require these vaccines, and if your dog gets CIRD-Complex, focus on preventing the spread (by keeping your dog home) and treatment rather than blaming your veterinarian, dog groomer, dog walker, doggie day care facility or neighbor for getting your dog sick.

Thanks for reading.


Pet Camp has been providing award winning overnight and day care to San Francisco’s dogs and cats for almost 25 years.  It you are a pet parent in need of overnight/boarding, doggie day care, cat care, bathing or transportation give us a call and let us know how we can be of assistance.

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