Understanding and Preventing Canine Adenovirus


    Hepatitis is when the liver is inflamed. Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH) or canine adenovirus is a particular illness in dogs caused by a virus from the adenovirus family. Other animals in the dog family like foxes, as well as otters and bears, can catch the infectious canine hepatitis, but the ICH virus doesn’t harm humans.

    How is adenovirus in dogs or ICH spread?

    The canine adenovirus can be found in the urine, as well as in the discharges from the nose and eyes of infected animals. A dog can get hepatitis upon contact with these infected materials. Puppies face the greatest risk of getting this virus, and symptoms typically show up within two to five days after exposure. However, it can take as long as 14 days before any signs of illness become apparent (known as the incubation period). In older dogs, some cases of infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) may not show noticeable symptoms or may be mild and get better without medical treatment.

    What are the signs of ICH in dogs?

    Indications of infectious canine hepatitis may encompass:

    • Mild elevation in body temperature
    • Impaired blood clotting
    • Reduced count of white blood cells
    • Congestion of mucous membranes
    • Significant decline in white blood cell levels
    • Lethargy
    • Increased thirst
    • Appetite loss
    • Vision impairment
    • Enlarged tonsils
    • Eye inflammation
    • Intermittent vomiting
    • Occasional abdominal pain
    • Profound despondency
    • Excessive discharge from eyes and nose
    • Yellowish, jaundiced appearance of skin, gums, and ears
    • Accumulation of fluid leading to abdominal swelling in chronic instances

    In severe instances, additional symptoms may include:

    • Discoloration or redness in the nose and mouth
    • Swelling in lymph nodes, neck, and head
    • Appearance of red dots on the skin
    • Seizures
    • Fatality

    In its milder form, an affected dog might simply show a reduced appetite, seem downcast, and experience a slight fever. Some dogs may develop cloudiness in one or both corneas of their eyes, known as “blue eye,” one to two weeks later. Dogs might exhibit respiratory symptoms like eye and nasal discharge and a cough similar to other upper respiratory tract infections or kennel cough (refer to the handout “Kennel Cough or Tracheobronchitis in Dogs”).

    In severe instances, typically seen in young puppies, in addition to fever, depression, and appetite loss, there can be abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling of the head and neck (edema), and possibly jaundice. Unfortunately, such severe cases are often fatal.

    What’s the prognosis for infectious canine hepatitis?

    Following their recuperation from the illness, dogs might encounter immune-complex responses that induce cloudiness in the cornea of the eye and contribute to prolonged kidney impairment. While certain instances of acute hepatitis can be treated successfully, the same is not true for chronic hepatitis.

    Dogs affected by chronic hepatitis will necessitate ongoing observation and care to ensure they can relish a high quality of life and an extended lifespan, characterized by minimal observable clinical symptoms.

    What’s the common treatment option for canine adenovirus?

    Similar to many viral infections, there isn’t a targeted treatment for this one. Antibiotics, which work against bacteria, are not effective here, but they might be useful in addressing secondary bacterial infections. The primary focus of treatment is on alleviating symptoms and providing the dog’s immune system with the time it needs to react. This may involve hospitalization, administering intravenous fluids, and using medications to alleviate the more severe symptoms.

    Is there a vaccine for adenovirus in dogs?

    The primary and crucial preventive step against infectious canine hepatitis is the administration of a mandatory vaccine. Typically, your dog will receive this vaccine alongside the canine distemper vaccinations, which are usually initiated when puppies are between 6 and 8 weeks old.

    Consult your veterinarian to determine the optimal frequency for your dog’s hepatitis vaccinations. Ensuring that your dog receives the appropriate vaccines at the right age is vital. Generally, the first hepatitis vaccine is recommended around 7 to 9 weeks of age, with the initial booster given between 11 and 13 weeks, providing ongoing protection.

    To maintain continued protection, your dog will require booster injections throughout their life, with additional shots at 15 months and subsequently on an annual basis to prevent infection.

    How is infectious canine hepatitis diagnosed?

    If you observe any of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s crucial to promptly reach out to your veterinarian. Typically, the sudden onset of symptoms, especially accompanied by bleeding, may point to canine hepatitis as the likely cause.

    However, a conclusive diagnosis requires laboratory tests, encompassing antibody tests, blood tests, and immunofluorescence scanning. In severe cases, your dog might necessitate blood transfusions.

    In some instances, chronic hepatitis in dogs can be identified through a routine blood health panel, enabling diagnosis before symptoms manifest. Unfortunately, by the time your dog begins displaying signs of liver disease, the condition has often advanced to an advanced stage.

    For a definitive diagnosis, your vet may conduct a liver biopsy, which not only determines the severity but also identifies the type of liver disease. Based on the biopsy results, your veterinarian might recommend treating the disease with a broad-spectrum antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, or immunosuppressive medication.

    In cases where cornea clouding in the eye is associated with painful spasms, your vet may prescribe an eye ointment for pain relief. If your dog experiences corneal clouding, it’s essential to protect the eye from bright light.

    Treatment options can vary from intravenous fluid therapy to hospitalization. Regular blood work will be necessary, and your furry friend will require continuous monitoring during the treatment process.

    Safeguard your furry friend from canine adenovirus

    Protect your furry companion from the risks of infectious canine hepatitis by taking proactive measures. Schedule regular vaccinations, including the crucial hepatitis vaccine, to ensure your dog’s well-being. If you notice any symptoms, from mild fever to more severe indications, act promptly—consult your veterinarian for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Early detection and intervention can significantly impact your dog’s prognosis, potentially preventing long-term complications. Remember, your commitment to preventive care, prompt action, and regular veterinary check-ups are the keys to fostering a healthy and happy life for your canine friend. Prioritize their well-being—vaccinate, monitor, and seek immediate veterinary attention when needed.