Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs)

Upper Respiratory Infections are a common second illness seen in our Parvo patients where viruses and/or bacteria can cause inflammation of the trachea, bronchi and even progress to pneumonia of the lungs. They can range in severity, although with particularly severe/stubborn URI's, we worry about Distemper. As with most secondary illnesses, URIs can lower the puppy's chance of survival. URIs are incredibly contagious. They are commonly spread via respiratory droplets (sneezing, coughing, sharing waterbowls) but can also be spread indirectly through the caretaker (volunteers!) if hands are not washed properly before touching shared equipment (medications, food cans) or moving onto your next patient.

Please follow Isolation Protocols to prevent spread of URIs from one parvo patient to another, which unfortunately happens frequently in our ICU.


Many infectious agents can cause upper respiratory infections in puppies. Often, a virus is the initial agent that causes damage and symptoms and then bacteria colonize in the weakened lungs. Some examples of viruses and bacteria that can cause URIs:

  • Parainfluenza
  • Canine Adenovirus 2
  • Canine Herpesvirus
  • Canine Coronavirus
  • Bordatella bronchiseptica
  • Myciplasma


  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Congestion


The following medications may be prescribed by the veterinarian for patients with URIs to prevent bacterial colonization or when bacterial infection is suspected . Please be familiar with these medications on the Drug Chart.

  • Oxytetracycline IV *special dilution & administration instructions*
  • Doxycycline PO
  • Nebulizing Solution
  • Coupage

A Nebulizing machine (image below) is used to turn the liquid nebulizing solution into a vapor which is inhaled by the patient. By inhaling the medication, the drugs are delivered to the local site of infection (the lungs). The solution is stored in the fridge and contains a bronchodilator to dilate the airways, and antibiotic to kill any causative agents, and a steroid to reduce inflammation. Since we don't put face masks on patients to deliver the drug, a small cage is used to concentrate the vapor in for the puppy to breath in. 5mL can be put into the neb machine and the patient should be treated for 30 minutes, or per the doctors instructions.

Neb solution is often used when a patient is congested to help break up mucous. Coupage, or percussion therapy, can be used to help mechanically remove mucous and augment the effects of the neb solution.