Because respiratory disease in dogs is often mild and resolves without treatment, and because it can be caused by viruses, there can be a reluctance to treat it with antibiotics. For shelters, cost and staff time may be a concern. For individual pet owners, they may just not see the need.
That's a mistake, however, according to Cynda Crawford, DVM, PhD. Dr. Crawford is a leading expert in canine respiratory diseases, and the researcher who identified the canine influenza virus in 2004, the first influenza virus ever known to affect dogs and the first new canine disease since the emergence of canine parvovirus in the 1970s.
At the recent University of Florida Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Conference, held in conjunction with the No More Homeless Pets Conference in Jacksonville, FL, Dr. Crawford gave attendees an overview of the wide variety of respiratory pathogens that are "Beyond Kennel Cough," and made a strong case for treating all cases of canine infectious respiratory disease with antibiotics. She also presented recommendations on which drugs are your best first bet for treatment.
From the transcript of her presentation:
Did you know you can actually establish a chronic infection in dogs that aren’t treated with antibiotics?
Sometimes dogs with kennel cough aren’t treated with anything. The infection is just allowed to run its course. If it’s truly due to pathogenic Bordetella, and there is no antibiotic therapy to eliminate the bacteria, the bacteria can establish a chronic infection in both the upper and lower respiratory tract.
A dog can have intermittent relapses of clinical signs, at which time they also are contagious to other dogs. This can go on for months.
It is true that Bordetella is very susceptible to doxycycline, the most commonly used antibiotic in the shelter world. Thank goodness these bacteria are still susceptible, we think, to doxycycline. That’s in shortage, and has been for a year or so now. People have to get minocycline as a substitute. It works equally well.
Clavamox does not work as well as the doxycycline or minocycline choices. It’s effective at least in the more current studies in killing only about 90 percent of the strains. Please remember that Bordetella is resistant to your trimethoprim-sulfa drugs like Tribrissen and also cephalosporins, so cephalexin, Convenia injections, any of the c ephalosporins will not work against the organism. If these antibiotics are used, then there will be an establishment of chronic infection.
You can view Dr. Crawford's presentation, and read the complete transcript, here.