Hepatitis is a condition that affects the liver and one that comes in many different strains, some of which you may already be familiar with-such as hepatitis C, which is the most common strain of the condition within the human population.
However, humans are by no means the only animals that can catch or develop hepatitis, and dogs are at risk of this potentially serious condition too, as they are vulnerable to a strain of hepatitis known as ICH, or infectious canine hepatitis, which is also sometimes known as CAV-1, as it is caused by the transmission of canine adenovirus (type one).
It is important to note that whilst some strains of hepatitis can be zoonotic, which means that they can cross the species border and infect other types of animals, the type of hepatitis that dogs can catch is not contagious to humans. However, it is extremely contagious between dogs and some other animals, and as such, taking steps to prevent your dog from catching it should be part of the standard care protocol for all dog owners.
In this article, we will look at the transmission of canine hepatitis in more detail, including how it is transmitted between dogs and what you can do to reduce the chances of your own dog catching the virus.
If you are looking for advice on the symptoms of canine hepatitis, how it can be treated and what the prognosis for recovery is, check out this article.
Canine hepatitis is correctly called infectious canine hepatitis, and is classed as an infection of the liver which is in its turn caused by infection with canine adenovirus (type one). Whilst this condition is not, as mentioned, transmissible to people, it can affect other species of animals, including wolves and foxes.
Hepatitis leads to jaundice of the liver, which often leads to yellowing of the mucous membranes in other areas of the body, including the eyes, gums and skin. It also causes a high fever, painful abdomen, and general sickness and loss of appetite, as well as potentially, a severe headache. In the most serious presentations of the condition, canine hepatitis can lead to internal bleeding, and in the long term, can lead to the development of lesions on the kidneys as well, which will often remain even after recovery.
Canine hepatitis is passed very easily between dogs, and as mentioned, wild fox populations may also carry it and spread it to dogs too. The most common route of transmission between dogs and other animals is by direct contact with an infected animal, but the condition spreads quickly through a variety of different routes, and so it is entirely possible to develop infection without ever having been in direct contact with a known infected dog.
The hepatitis virus is present in all of the bodily fluids and discharges of infected and carrier animals, including urine and faeces, blood, spit, and snot. Dogs pick up the virus through their nose and mouth, and the virus then replicates in their tonsils during the incubation period, and then after a few days, the infection itself will occur in the liver and also, potentially the kidneys.
Dogs can contact hepatitis through direct contact with an infected dog (which includes a dog that is a carrier or incubator of the virus but is not showing signs of ill health) and also by means of sharing communal food or water bowls, or drinking from bowls that are in common use, such as outside of coffee shops.
Puppies can contract hepatitis from their dam, either through their milk or whilst in utero, and because the virus can be spread by sneezing and also faeces and urine, dogs can also get infected simply by walking in areas where a lot of other dogs pass by, or if the particles of the virus are carried on the air through coughing and sneezing.
A vaccination is available that protects dogs against canine adenovirus (type one), which is the viral strain responsible for canine hepatitis. Ensuring that your dog receives this vaccine as part of their standard board of shots, and that they receive their annual boosters on time too, is the best way to protect your dog.
In a small number of cases, vaccinated dogs may still develop the condition, but it will be much less severe and will generally not make your dog seriously ill.
You should also always carry your own water bowls for your dog when you are out, and discourage them from drinking from communal water sources, or sharing bowls. Also, avoid walking your dog in areas where other people are not responsible about picking up their dog’s mess, to reduce the possibility of transmission via this route.
If your dog has a weakened or supressed immune system, or is suffering from an existing health condition that their immune system is working on fighting off, try to limit their contact with other unknown dogs and high traffic areas to a minimum, to reduce their chances of picking up a condition such as hepatitis that they will have problems fighting off.
The same guidance applies if your dog cannot, for any reason, be vaccinated, in order to protect them against their increased risk of picking up contagious illnesses.
If your dog is of one of the breeds or types that have a particular tendency to suffer from immune-mediated disorders, such as the Shar-pei and the Cardigan Welsh corgi, it is wise to be especially vigilant when it comes to looking out for the early symptoms of an immune system problem that can lead to an elevated chance of developing illnesses such as hepatitis too.