"Identifying and diagnosing canine herpesvirus in puppies
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"Identifying and diagnosing canine herpesvirus in puppies

Dogs
Health & Safety

While herpes and the various forms of the herpesvirus are most commonly associated with people, dogs too can get their own form of the virus, which can potentially cause permanent damage to their reproductive systems. While many adult dogs that carry the virus will not suffer any adverse effects of being a carrier, the condition can be passed on from a dam to her litter, and the virus is in fact one of the leading causes of death in very young puppies.

In this article, we will look at canine herpesvirus or CHV in more detail. Read on to learn more.

Herpesvirus in adult dogs

CHV is a viral condition that can be passed from dog to dog with ease. While the most common way of contracting the condition in the adult dog is via mating as a sexually transmitted infection, other non-sexual behaviours such as licking and nuzzling other dogs can also lead to the virus being passed on, and the virus is also carried in the bodily fluids produced by coughing and sneezing.

The majority of adult dogs that carry the herpesvirus will not show any symptoms or ill effects of the condition, although symptoms such as a dry, hacking cough and/or sores around the genital areas may be present in some cases.

Most adult dogs that catch the virus will undergo an initial outbreak of the symptoms of the condition, and after this time the virus will become dormant, but may still be contagious. After the initial outbreak, the dog may never become symptomatic of the virus again, but further outbreaks may occur, particularly at times when the dog is ill with something else, or their immune system is otherwise compromised.

Herpesvirus in puppies

Herpesvirus in puppies is more serious than that in adult dogs, and as mentioned, is one of the most common causes of death in pups up to a few weeks old.

A dam that is infected with the virus will often spread the virus to her puppies, even if the virus is dormant in the dam at the time. Puppies may contract the virus shortly after birth, or be born with it after contracting the infection while still in the womb.

The younger the puppy, the more serious the condition tends to be, and the more likely it is to result in death.

Symptoms of canine herpesvirus in puppies often include:

  • A general failure to thrive and grow normally.
  • Weakness and lethargy.
  • Crying and other signs of distress.
  • A bruised or painful abdomen.
  • Inability to nurse and suckle milk normally.
  • Soft stools that are often greenish or yellow in colour.
  • A discharge from the nose, often accompanied by wheezing or laboured breathing.
  • Nose bleeds.
  • Propensity to bruise easily.
  • Potential blindness in puppies whose eyes have opened.
  • Seizures in older puppies.
  • Sudden death.

Puppies that are born with herpesvirus will often die within just a few hours of birth, as their immune systems are so young and are unable to deal with the virus effectively.

How to deal with canine herpesvirus in the puppy

If you intend to breed from your dog, you can remove the risk of the pups developing herpesvirus by having the dam and sire screened for canine STD’s before making the decision to breed. If you do not know whether your dam is carrying the condition or not, you should make yourself aware of the symptoms of the condition in very young pups, and be very vigilant for signs of the condition after they are born.

If your new born pups appear to be showing any signs of illness or abnormal behaviour, contact your vet asap, as the sooner that your vet is appraised of the condition, the sooner they can begin to offer care. There is no cure for herpesvirus, but a range of options may be available in order to support the puppies and hopefully, enable their recovery and save their lives.

If you identify one or more puppies that are showing signs of the condition, they should be separated from the rest of the litter as soon as possible, as they will quickly pass the virus on to other littermates who may be healthy. Not necessarily all pups in one litter will contract herpesvirus, and so preserving the health of the puppies that are not affected is important.

Canine herpesvirus thrives in the body at lower temperatures, and so one way to expedite the recovery of your pups or prevent more of them from becoming ill is to keep the ambient and body temperature of your pups warm, with a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit being recommended to limit the effects of the virus.

While canine herpesvirus is sadly often fatal in young puppies, some puppies will manage to bypass catching the infection from an affected dam, and some will survive the condition, so you should not automatically assume that all hope is lost.

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