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Infectious Canine Hepatitis - Hepatitis In Dogs

Infectious canine hepatitis is a rapid-onset and potentially fatal condition that can affect dogs of all ages, breeds, shapes and sizes. It can also affect and be spread by foxes, and in other countries where rather more exotic animals roam freely, coyotes, wolves and bears too.

Most people are aware of the various different hepatitis strains that people can contract, and the various steps that can be taken to avoid catching the disease in people, but what can you do to protect your dog against the canine equivalent? How can you identify the symptoms of infectious canine hepatitis? Can you catch it from your dog? Read on to learn more.

What is infectious canine hepatitis?

Infectious canine hepatitis is a condition that affects the liver and kidneys, causing inflammation of the organ tissue that in turn can lead to the development of fibroids, liver disease, jaundice, disorientation and changes in personality, bleeding disorders and lesions. In the later stages, it can affect many other organs, including the spleen and lungs as well. Understandably, infectious canine hepatitis is highly unpleasant for your dog, is painful, and can make them quite sick and even, in some cases, prove fatal.

Infectious canine hepatitis is a viral condition, which is caused by the presence of the virus known as “canine adenovirus 1” or CAV-1.

How do dogs catch hepatitis?

Infectious canine hepatitis is highly infectious to other dogs, because it can be transmitted in a wide variety of ways. Infectious canine hepatitis is not an airborne disease, but it is present in the faeces, blood, saliva and urine of affected dogs, or by directly touching the snout or back end of another dog that is suffering from or carrying the condition. The virus that causes the condition is very virulent, and so your dog may even be able to contract the condition by contact with food or water bowls that have been used by an infected dog, as well as by other methods. It is important not to allow your dog to drink from any communal water bowls when out and about if at all possible; take a bottle of water and a dish with you when out on walks.

What type of dogs are most at risk?

Any unvaccinated dog can contract the disease, but the good news is that infectious canine hepatitis is a condition that is vaccinated against as standard within the UK, and so providing that you have your dog immunised and keep their boosters up to date, your dog should be protected. Unvaccinated dogs under one year old are the most likely to contract the condition and be worst affected by it, although the disease can affect dogs of any age.

Can people catch infectious canine hepatitis?

Infectious canine hepatitis is not a zoonotic condition, which means that it is not possible to catch the condition yourself from an affected dog. It is important to remember that you may carry the virus on your skin or clothes if you have been in contact with an affected dog, however, and could potentially pass it on to other canines that you meet.

Preventing the spread of infectious canine hepatitis

Vaccination is the most effective way of keeping the condition from spreading widely throughout the canine population, and it is your responsibility as a dog owner to protect your dog from this and other illnesses by keeping their immunisations up to date. If your dog or another dog that you know is affected by the condition, it is important to ensure that neither the dog themselves nor any of their toys or equipment come into contact with other dogs, and to thoroughly disinfect everything used on or around that particular dog frequently.

The symptoms of infectious canine hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis can be very quick in its development, and usually presents itself as an acute condition. Signs and symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Sickness and vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Cuts and small grazes not clotting properly
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Drinking and peeing a lot
  • Loss of appetite or disinterest in food
  • Light coloured poop
  • Pain or enlargement of the abdomen
  • Jaundice around the eyes and any areas of pink skin
  • Fever
  • Pale gums and tongue
  • Sudden weight loss

Diagnosing infectious canine hepatitis

In order to definitively diagnose infectious canine hepatitis, your vet will run a variety of tests, including blood tests, antibody tests and possibly immuno-fluorescence scanning, depending upon the equipment they have available to them. Results are usually returned quickly, and analysis is often performed in-house.

Treatment and prognosis for dogs affected

Infectious canine hepatitis is a severe and sometimes fatal condition, but surprisingly, it does often resolve itself and in mild cases, go away on its own as the body develops the necessary antibodies to fight off the virus.

Because the condition is usually acute and can potentially be fatal, however, veterinary intervention and treatment is usually recommended. This may consist of various different treatment methods, including a combination of some of the following treatment protocols:

  • IV fluid therapy and inpatient monitoring
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics may be administered to kill the virus
  • In serious cases and if available, a blood transfusion may be considered
  • Reactive treatment to minimise the pain and discomfort of the condition, such as painkillers and creams to treat problems with the eyes.

While the condition can prove fatal, particularly in young, unvaccinated dogs and those with a weakened immune system, treatment for infectious canine hepatitis is often effective if begun early on. Knowing how to spot the potential symptoms of the disease in your dogs and others, and remaining vigilant, can go a long way towards increasing a dog’s chances of survival, should they be unlucky enough to contract the condition.

Finally, don’t forget that infectious canine hepatitis can be vaccinated against; act now to protect the future health and wellbeing of your favourite canine companion!


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