Canine Viral Hepatitis

Canine viral hepatitis, or Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH), is a viral disease which generally affects puppies and younger dogs up to the age of one year. Reportedly, the virus also affects wild dogs, including wolves, coyotes and foxes. The condition is caused by the canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1) virus and commonly affects specific organ regions, such as the liver, kidneys, lungs and spleen.

The disease is highly contagious and is spread through urine, feces and saliva of an infected canine, or from contaminated objects. The viral duration generally occurs for seven days, with day three to five being the most critical.

Symptoms of Canine Viral Hepatitis

The symptoms of canine viral hepatitis can range depending on the severity of the infection. In some cases, a dog can be infected with the CAV-1 virus and show no clinical symptoms. The mild symptoms associated with viral hepatitis include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sore throat
  • coughing
  • decreased appetite
  • polydipsia
  • jaundice
  • abdominal pain and inflammation
  • fever
  • lethargy

In more severe cases of canines that contract viral hepatitis, severe symptoms to include biphasic fever, loss of appetite, enlarged abdomen, disorientation, seizures, and coma. When blood is present in present in diarrhea, vomit, nose, or gums, owners should seek veterinary assistance immediately.

Diagnosing Dogs with ICH

Diagnosis for canine virus is normally done through taking a thorough medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests, and imaging studies. Knowing if the canine was exposed to the CAV-1 virus is important for the veterinarian to determine if viral hepatitis is causing the symptoms, or if other conditions are present. Currently, a new test called ELISA is used by taking a fecal sample to test for viral hepatitis, which reduces the amount of additional testing.

Treatment for Canine Viral Hepatitis

Currently there is no treatment for viral hepatitis. Treatment for a canine is commonly supported care to include intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and fasting. After recovery, the canine will develop immunity to the virus. In acute cases, home treatment is advised because the virus is eliminated from the organs within 10 to 14 days. However, viral hepatitis will remain present in the kidney and shedding will occur for approximately six to nine months.

Canines that require inpatient care are more critical and will receive intravenous therapy to counteract electrolyte imbalances, potassium and magnesium, which is normally decreased due to diarrhea and vomiting. In cases of a large volume of blood loss, a blood transfusion in combination with heparin is required.

Preventing Infectious Canine Hepatitis

Vaccination for the CAV-1 virus is the recommended option for prevention. Most veterinarians recommend a vaccination schedule of two injections, administered prior to 10 weeks of age and the second at 14 weeks of age. Puppies less than 10 weeks are protected by antibodies released through the mom’s milk during nursing. Also, boosters are available on a yearly basis, or every three years.

An alternative to vaccination is to keep the canine away from public places where other dogs that possibly are infected frequent. Refrain from allowing the dog to use containers which are outside and used by other animals not residing in the household. During walks, ensure the dog doesn’t consume fecal matter or urine from other animals.