Like its name suggests, infectious canine hepatitis is a very contagious disease. It is caused by a virus that affects the liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and eyes. The disease usually infects dogs under a year old, but can target dogs of any age. Domesticated dogs usually aren’t affected thanks to vaccination. Therefore, most cases occur in wild dogs.
Hepatitis in dogs is caused by the canine adenovirus type-1, or CAV-1. Dogs typically become infected if they consume feces, saliva, or urine produced by an infected animal. Dogs that have been infected by this virus can shed it in their urine or feces for many months.
The first sign of development of this disease is a fever. Dogs may also produce discharge from their nose and eyes. Abdominal pain and vomiting are also common signs. Infectious canine hepatitis also causes blood clotting problems. You may notice that your dog is bleeding around his teeth or develops spontaneous hematomas in his mouth.
This disease also causes canines to drink more often and subsequently urinate more than usual. The stool may also be lighter than normal. The lymph nodes can become swollen too. Other common signs of the disease include loss of appetite, seizures, and jaundice.
If your dog shows any of these symptoms, the vet will need to perform a physical exam and take a complete medical history. There are blood tests that can detect the virus or antibodies to the virus in your dog. There will also be a decrease in the number of white blood cells and signs of liver disease. In some cases, a urinalysis and x-ray may be useful.
The treatment for hepatitis in dogs consists of supportive care since there is no cure for the virus that causes it. To prevent dehydration, IV fluids will need to be given. Antibiotics will also be useful in preventing secondary bacterial infections. Some dogs who are severely ill will lose a lot of blood, so they may need a blood transfusion. If your dog is experiencing sensitivity to light or eye pain, medications may also be given.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent infectious canine hepatitis. The virus that causes it is very, very hearty. It can survive without a host for months on end. It is also resistant to common solvents and detergents, but can be destroyed using common household bleach.