Parainfluenza Virus Infection in Dogs

Written By Wag! Staff
Published: 06/27/2017Updated: 12/13/2023
Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
Parainfluenza Virus Infection in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Parainfluenza Virus Infection?

The respiratory signs for parainfluenza resemble those found in dogs afflicted with canine influenza, but the similarity ends there. Both are quite contagious and are commonly found in areas where many dogs are kept together, like shelters, kennels, daycare facilities, dog parks, and groomers. They are very different viruses and, accordingly, require different treatments and vaccinations.

Parainfluenza virus infection is a highly contagious viral lung infection which can be a component in infectious tracheobronchitis, commonly referred to as kennel cough.

Symptoms of Parainfluenza Virus Infection in Dogs

The symptoms of parainfluenza virus infection are listed below. The severity or intensity of these symptoms may vary based upon the afflicted canine's age or the condition of their immune system.

Dogs with canine parainfluenza virus can also be asymptomatic and may shed the virus without showing clinical signs.


While there is only one type of parainfluenza virus infection in dogs, the virus itself can be a component of other canine infectious respiratory diseases. It has been found to be part of the etiology for acute tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) along with Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2).

Causes of Parainfluenza Virus Infection in Dogs

Canine parainfluenza virus spreads through a number of ways:

  • Direct contact with an infected dog
  • Aerosols from coughs and sneezes
  • Body secretions and fluids
  • Shared bowls, bedding, and toys

Here are a few other things you need to know about this virus:

  • Canine parainfluenza virus can survive on non-porous surfaces for 4 to 12 days, but it's susceptible to various disinfectants.
  • Kennel workers have been know to accidentally bring the virus home to their own animals.
  • Puppies and older dogs, whose immune systems may be compromised, are at higher risk of contracting the virus.
  • A dog who has caught the virus can continue to pass it on for up to two weeks after recovery.
  • Puppies and toy breeds are prone to thick secretions produced by throat irritation and are therefore at higher risk of developing pneumonia from a parainfluenza virus infection. 

Diagnosis of Parainfluenza Virus Infection in Dogs

Diagnosis of parainfluenza virus infection is similar to that of other canine infectious respiratory diseases. Providing a thorough history of your dog's health will be very important. Since the virus can easily be picked up at boarding kennels, grooming establishments, dog parks, and other areas where many dogs gather, it's crucial to inform your vet of your dog's whereabouts two to four weeks before they began showing symptoms. 

Your vet will give your dog a physical examination and take blood and/or secretion samples to test for the virus and rule out other illnesses. If pneumonia is suspected, they may also take a chest x-ray. 

After the test results have been analyzed, an appropriate treatment plan will be developed and implemented for your canine family member.

A prompt diagnosis not only ensures your dog receives proper treatment, but it can also prevent the virus from spreading to other dogs. 

Treatment of Parainfluenza Virus Infection in Dogs

Some dogs may recover from the virus without medication, and hospitalization is generally not required except for severe cases. Still, your dog may need to take medications to ease their symptoms. Common treatments for parainfluenza virus infection include:

Cough suppressants

Antitussives or cough suppressants can help dogs with dry coughs and breathing problems. Persistent coughing over a long period can result in scarring of the lung tissue.


If your dog is suffering from a painful cough, your vet may also prescribe painkillers and anti inflammatories. 


Antibiotics may be given as well if your dog has a lot of nasal secretions, is producing harsh lung sounds, or has developed a secondary infection such as pneumonia.


In addition to medication, it's important to keep your dog away from other animals to prevent the virus from spreading. Doing so will also protect them from secondary infections and complications.

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Recovery of Parainfluenza Virus Infection in Dogs

Your dog should recover from the canine parainfluenza virus within a few weeks; however, it may still be present in the environment even after your dog has recovered, so it's recommended to clean any spaces they've occupied. And as mentioned earlier, it's important to keep your dog away from healthy animals until they've recovered. 

Parainfluenza virus infection in dogs can be prevented through vaccination. But since it's a non-core vaccine that's not always given as part of a standard inoculation program, you'll have to ask your vet about it if you're concerned about the virus, especially if your dog is often in contact with other canines. 

Parainfluenza virus infection can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog is at risk of parainfluenza virus infection, start searching for pet insurance today. Wag!’s pet insurance comparison tool lets you compare plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace. Find the "pawfect" plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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