Canine Adenovirus: What It Is, How It Spreads, and Can Dogs Contract It From Humans?

    canine adenovirus

    The world of viruses is vast and complex, with many species affecting both humans and animals. Among these, adenoviruses have a unique place due to their widespread prevalence and diverse impact on various species. Adenoviruses are common causes of respiratory illness, but they can also cause a wide range of other diseases and symptoms, including colds, sore throats, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and pink eye.

    Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that can infect multiple species, including humans and dogs. While some types of adenoviruses primarily cause respiratory illnesses, others can affect different body systems, including the eyes, intestines, urinary tract, and nervous system.

    In humans, adenoviruses can cause serious infections, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems. However, they also pose a significant risk to our beloved pets, particularly dogs. This brings us to the topic of canine adenovirus, a condition that has far-reaching implications for canine health.

    What is Canine Adenovirus?

    Canine adenovirus is a DNA virus that affects dogs, with two main types: Canine Adenovirus Type 1 (CAV-1) and Canine Adenovirus Type 2 (CAV-2).

    CAV-1 causes a highly contagious disease known as infectious canine hepatitis (ICH). This disease primarily affects the liver but can also affect other organs like the kidneys and the lining of blood vessels. 

    On the other hand, CAV-2 is primarily associated with respiratory disease and is one of the possible causes of infectious tracheobronchitis, also known as “kennel cough.” Although it’s usually less severe than ICH, kennel cough can be highly uncomfortable for dogs and could lead to more serious complications, particularly in puppies or older dogs with existing health conditions.

    Both CAV-1 and CAV-2 are highly contagious and can be transmitted through direct contact with the saliva, urine, feces, or nasal secretions of an infected dog. Therefore, understanding and managing canine adenoviruses are crucial for maintaining canine health and welfare.

    Symptoms of Canine Adenovirus

    The symptoms of canine adenovirus can indeed vary widely depending on the specific type of virus (CAV-1 or CAV-2) and the severity of the infection. Here is a more detailed look at the potential symptoms:

    Symptoms of CAV-1 (Infectious Canine Hepatitis):

    • Fever: This is often one of the first signs of infection.
    • Lethargy: Dogs may seem worn out and disinterested in routine tasks.
    • Loss of appetite: Infected dogs may show less interest in food.
    • Abdominal pain: Due to the virus’s effect on the liver, dogs may exhibit discomfort or pain in the abdominal area.
    • Diarrhea or vomiting: These are common symptoms of many types of illness, including CAV-1.
    • Eye inflammation: In some cases, dogs may develop a condition called “blue eye,” which involves corneal edema and inflammation.
    • Jaundice: In severe cases, the whites of the dog’s eyes, gums, and skin may turn yellow due to liver damage.

    Symptoms of CAV-2 (Respiratory Disease):

    • Persistent cough: Often dry and hacking, this is a hallmark symptom of the respiratory form of canine adenovirus.
    • Retching or gagging: Especially after coughing.
    • Nasal discharge: Dogs may have a runny nose.
    • Fever: Although less common than with CAV-1, some dogs may develop a fever.
    • Lethargy: Dogs may seem less energetic or interested in activities.
    • Loss of appetite: Some dogs may eat less than usual.

    Remember, if your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Not all symptoms may be present in all dogs, and other conditions can cause similar symptoms.

    Causes of Canine Adenovirus

    Canine adenoviruses, both CAV-1 and CAV-2, are primarily spread through direct contact with an infected dog or their bodily fluids. The following are the primary modes of transmission:

    Direct Contact

    Dogs can contract the virus by coming into direct contact with an infected dog.

    Indirect Contact

    The virus can survive in the environment for a considerable amount of time (weeks to months) and can be picked up by dogs from contaminated surfaces like kennels, food and water bowls, toys, or bedding.

    Bodily Fluids

    The virus is present in the urine, feces, saliva, and blood of infected dogs. Dogs can get infected by sniffing or licking these substances or by coming into contact with objects or areas contaminated by these fluids.

    Airborne Droplets

    CAV-2, which causes respiratory disease, can also be spread through the air when infected dogs cough or sneeze.

    It’s important to note that the virus can also be spread by humans who have come into contact with an infected dog or their bodily fluids. The virus can be carried on hands, clothes, or shoes, so proper hygiene and cleaning measures should be taken when handling infected dogs.

    Treatment, Management and Prevention of Canine Adenovirus

    The treatment for canine adenovirus is primarily supportive, as there is no specific antiviral treatment available. The goal is to manage symptoms and prevent complications. Here’s a more detailed look at the treatment and management of canine adenovirus:


    Supportive Care

    This includes maintaining hydration (potentially through intravenous fluids), providing nutritional support, and managing any symptoms such as fever or vomiting.


    Although antibiotics can’t treat the virus itself, they are often used to treat or prevent secondary bacterial infections that can occur when a dog’s immune system is weakened by the virus.


    In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary to provide intensive care and close monitoring.



    Infected dogs should be isolated from other dogs to prevent the spread of the virus.


    Proper hygiene and cleaning measures should be taken when handling infected dogs to prevent the further spread of the virus.



    Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent canine adenovirus. The vaccine for CAV-2 provides cross-protection for CAV-1, so it protects against both types of the virus.

    Environmental Cleaning

    Regular cleaning and disinfection of kennels, bowls, toys, and other objects and areas that dogs frequently come into contact with can help reduce the spread of the virus.

    Can Dogs Get Adenovirus from Humans?

    While adenoviruses are known to infect both humans and animals, it’s important to note that the specific strains of adenovirus that affect dogs (CAV-1 and CAV-2) are different from those that typically infect humans. There is currently no evidence to suggest that dogs can contract these forms of adenovirus from humans, or vice versa.

    However, human handling can indirectly contribute to the spread of canine adenovirus. For example, if a person comes into contact with an infected dog or their bodily fluids, the virus can be carried on hands, clothes, or shoes and subsequently transferred to other dogs. Therefore, proper hygiene practices, such as hand washing and changing clothes before handling different dogs, can help prevent the spread of the virus.

    Prevention: The Best Protection for Our Pets

    In conclusion, while canine adenovirus poses a significant health risk to dogs, the key to managing this disease lies in prevention. Regular vaccinations, good hygiene practices, and maintaining clean environments where dogs congregate can significantly reduce the risk of infection.

    Remember, our furry friends depend on us for their health and well-being. By being aware of the risks and taking proactive measures, we can help protect them from diseases like canine adenovirus and ensure they lead happy, healthy lives.