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What Are The Most Contagious Canine Health Conditions?

Just like people, dogs can catch various different illnesses and health conditions from each other via contact, which is something that all dog owners should be aware of. Many of these conditions can be vaccinated against in order to both greatly reduce the risk of vaccinated dogs themselves becoming ill, but also to provide a level of what is known as herd immunity. Herd immunity means that if the majority of a population are vaccinated or immune to a given condition, the chances of those who are not vaccinated/immune developing the condition reduce exponentially too.

Every country of the world have their own risks and conditions that are prevalent across their dog populations, which means that vaccinations vary in different countries-for instance, the UK is one of the few countries in the world where rabies is considered to have been eradicated, and so we do not give dogs the rabies vaccination as standard in the UK.

However, any dog that needs a pet passport because they travel to other countries will have to be vaccinated against rabies first, both to protect them against the condition and in order for them to be allowed back into the UK!

There are an almost uncountable number of canine health conditions worldwide that are classed as contagious and that are a risk to the local dog populations-and in this article, we will look at the five most contagious canine conditions found in the UK, including whether or not they can be vaccinated against, and how they are transmitted.

Read on to learn more.

Kennel cough

Kennel cough is perhaps the most common of all canine health conditions that can be spread from dog to dog, and the risks increase greatly in environments where a lot of dogs congregate or live in close quarters, such as doggy day care facilities and boarding kennels.

Fortunately, kennel cough can be vaccinated against, and all responsible pet care facilities require dogs that they take in to be vaccinated against the condition before they can enter. Kennel cough is also a risk for dogs in shelters and rehoming centres, as of course some of the dogs brought in will not be in good condition, and their vaccination status will not be known.

The kennel cough vaccine takes the form of a nasal spray, which means that it is important for dog owners to ask for the vaccine specifically, as many people wrongly assume that it is contained within the standard injected canine vaccine combination. Most vets offer the kennel cough vaccine as standard, although this usually attracts an extra fee.

Canine influenza

Canine influenza often presents with many of the same symptoms as kennel cough, and as such, the two are often confused. However, the canine influenza virus is a different one to the form responsible for Kennel cough-although fortunately, this too is another condition that is commonly vaccinated against, this time within the usual combination injected vaccine.

Canine influenza is spread very easily from dog to dog through fluid secretions-such as coughs, sneezes and runny noses. Additionally, the virus is a very hardy one that can survive outside of the body for anything up to 48 hours, which means that dogs do not have to come into direct contact with each other in order to transmit the virus.


Parvovirus is one of the most serious and nasty of all of the canine viral health conditions, and is also one for which there is no cure. Palliative care and supportive nursing is all that can be done for dogs with parvovirus, in order to give the dog the best possible chance of survival.

Parvovirus is most dangerous to young puppies and older dogs with a compromised immune system, and often proves fatal in puppies. Parvovirus can be spread by the faces of affected dogs, as the viral load sheds in the stools. Additionally, parvovirus can remain viable in the environment for several months under the right conditions, which makes it even more risky.

Fortunately, the condition is also included in the standard combination canine vaccines, and all puppies should have these before going outside or coming into contact with other dogs.


Unlike the other contagious conditions that we have looked at so far, leptospirosis is a bacterial condition rather than a viral one, and is one that can lead to organ failure and death in infected dogs. Once more, the condition is more dangerous to young puppies whose immune systems are not fully active, although it can potentially be fatal in otherwise healthy adult dogs too.

Leptospirosis is spread via infected urine, and is often present in water sources such as canals and ponds, as these often attract rats that may carry the virus.

Again, the leptospirosis vaccine is given as standard in the UK.

Canine adenovirus 1/hepatitis (infectious)

There are various different types of hepatitis, which is a condition that affects the liver-not all of them are contagious, but there is one variant that is, known as infectious canine hepatitis.

The canine adenovirus 1 condition is highly contagious between dogs, being passed on in all bodily secretions or even brushing against the face of another infected dog, as the virus will be present in the mucous on their nose.

Canine adenovirus 1 or infectious hepatitis is most likely to affect young dogs and those with compromised immune systems, and again, is covered as part of your dog’s standard vaccinations.

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