Infectious canine hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis, sometimes referred to as dog hepatitis, is caused by canine adenovirus type-1 (CAV-1) and leads to an acute liver infection. Dogs are not the only ones susceptible to this disease; it can infect wolves, coyotes and even bears. When foxes are exposed to the virus the normally develop encephalitis instead of liver infection.

Infectious canine hepatitis transmission

Infectious canine hepatitis is spread via urine, faeces, saliva, blood and nasal discharge from infected dogs. It can actually be released in the urine of a dog up to 12 months after the dog has recovered from the infection. A dog becomes infected through nose or mouth, and the virus will travel to the tonsils where it multiplies. After a while, there virus colony will be large enough to infect kidneys and liver of the dog. The incubation period for infectious canine hepatitis is 4-7 days.

Infectious canine hepatitis symptoms

Common symptoms of infectious canine hepatitis are depression, loss of appetite, fever, coughing, corneal oedema and a tender abdomen. When the liver gets infected, it can manifest in the form of jaundice, vomiting and hepatic encephalopathy. If the disease progresses further, it can lead to severe bleeding disorders which can be noticed in the form of hematomas in the mouth. Most dogs will survive infectious canine hepatitis, but liver disease as well as bleeding disorders can naturally have a fatal outcome and you should always take your dog to the vet if you suspect infectious canine hepatitis. Even if the dog recovers, it may retain chronic corneal oedema and kidney lesions.  

Infectious canine hepatitis diagnosis  

In addition to evaluating the symptoms, the vet can check the blood of your dog for signs of infectious canine hepatitis. A rising antibody titer to CAV-1 is often seen in infected dogs.

Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish infectious canine hepatitis from canine parvovirus, especially in young, unvaccinated dogs where both diseases can cause bloody diarrhoea and a low white blood cell count.  

Infectious canine hepatitis vaccination and prevention

You can prevent infectious canine hepatitis in your dog by vaccinating it. Most modern combination vaccines will today contain a modified version of the adenovirus type-2 virus, and this virus is so similar to CAV-1 that the dog will become immune to both viruses. Dogs are seldom vaccinated against only CAV-1, since the CAV-1 vaccine is more prone to causing side effects. The effect of the adenovirus type-2 virus vaccine is not life long, but it will normally last for at least four years. 

If you want to kill the CAV-1 outside its host, you can use quaternary ammonium compounds. You can also have clothing and bedding steam cleaned. If you do not disinfect, the virus can stay alive for several months. 

Infectious canine hepatitis treatment

There is no cure for infectious canine hepatitis, but most dogs will recover on their own if otherwise healthy and well cared for. The vet can alleviate the symptoms and watch for signs of secondary disease. Seeking veterinary attention is always recommended. 

Virus infections in dogs: (click for more info)
Canine coronavirus in dogs
Canine distemper in dogs
Canine herpesvirus in dogs
Canine influenza in dogs
Canine minute virus in dogs
Canine parvovirus in dogs
Infectious canine hepatitis in dogs
Kennel cough in dogs
Pseudorabies in dogs
Rabies in dogs