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How to Tell if Your Pet Has a URI

The Symptoms to Upper Respiratory Infections

By Madeleine Burry. November 20, 2012 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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How to Tell if Your Pet Has a URI

Upper respiratory illnesses are quite common amongst cats and dogs and manifests itself in much the same way as the common cold does in people. If your pal is sniffling and sneezing, get them checked out for a URI.

The symptoms of an upper respiratory infection in cats and dogs very closely resemble the experience you would have with a common cold -- sniffling, sneezing, and snot. With kennel cough, which is one of the most common upper respiratory infections for canines, a persistent dry cough is a noticeable identifier of the URI.

Major Symptoms

You may notice your pet sneezing and having discharge from her eyes, nose, and throat. Snot can be clear, white, yellow, or green, often depending on the particular stage of the infection, or the virus or bacteria causing the URI. Cats with an upper respiratory infection also may have a loss of appetite and difficulty breathing due to congestion. A fever may also be present, and drooling is common due to difficulty swallowing.

Dogs experience these same symptoms – discharge from the nose and eyes, sneezing, and trouble breathing. However, the most common upper respiratory infection for dogs is kennel cough, characterized by a dry, rough cough. This noise from kennel cough is startling, and the cough is not a productive one, meaning it’s not expelling an irritant. It occurs frequently and over a long period of time.

In general, veterinarians do not make much of an effort to identify the particular bacteria or virus causing a pet's upper respiratory infection. The treatment does not tend to vary based on the exact cause of the symptoms. There are a few symptoms that are likely to be tied to specific causes for feline upper respiratory infections.

  • Feline Herpes Virus:

    This virus tends to lead to mouth ulcers in cats.
  • Feline Calicivirus:

    Like herpes, calici virus leads to mouth ulcers. It can also cause cats to become lame.
  • Feline Chlamydia:

    It is very common for cats with this bacteria to experience eye-related issues, such as discharge and conjunctivitis, as well as sneezing.
  • Bordetella:

    This leads to basic symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, and fever. In dogs, this bacteria is associated with kennel cough.
  • Mycoplasma Bacteria:

    Like feline Chlamydia, this bacteria tends to be associated with eye problems, like discharge.

When Will Symptoms Develop?

Regardless of the bacteria or virus causing your pet's illness, the symptoms will tend to take a few days after contact to develop. Generally, the upper respiratory infection will pass within ten days to two weeks, although kennel cough lingers longer, for up to a month.

Take your pet to the veterinarian if symptoms persist for 2-3 days, just to be sure to get the correct diagnosis. For older dogs, puppies, kittens, and any other pet with a weakened immune system, pneumonia can sometimes develop.

More on Spotting Illness in Pets

Signs Your Cat May Be Sick
Signs Your Pet Needs New Food

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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