What is Canine Coronavirus Infection?
Canine coronavirus (CCoV) is a relatively new intestinal disease in dogs. It was first identified in England in 1971, but it has since spread all around the world. Coronaviruses are found in many different animals including pigs, cows, cats, and humans, as well as dogs. They are an RNA virus, so named because of the corona like halo that appears under a microscope. Viruses can only affect one species, but new strains do develop quickly and may occasionally jump species to form a new disease. CCoV is believed to have come originally from pigs, while another, more recent, canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) may have jumped from cows. Typically, CCoV causes enteritis, inflammation of the small intestine. It is rarely symptomatic in adult dogs, but puppies have diarrhea and sometimes other symptoms as well. It affects weak puppies most commonly. In puppies under three months of age, it can be fatal, but usually because it is combined with another infection. The virus invades the upper intestinal tract within 2 to 3 days and continues to be passed in the feces for 9 days, and sometimes longer. The disease is highly contagious and spreads easily through the feces of infected animals; many dogs can be carriers without actually showing symptoms. Adult dogs that have been exposed develop antibodies to the disease. Puppies can be vaccinated at 6 and 9 weeks of age and should be protected against most forms for life. The respiratory version, CRCoV, is a separate virus that is not responsive to the same antibodies or vaccination.
Coronavirus is an infectious disease found in many animals. Typically, coronavirus causes an intestinal infection in dogs. Veterinarians call this canine coronavirus infection. Symptoms are usually only apparent in puppies and dogs with a weakened immune system and the disease is rarely fatal.
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Symptoms of Canine Coronavirus Infection in Dogs
Adult dogs often have few or very mild symptoms. The disease is much more noticeable in puppies. Dogs or puppies with the following symptoms should be taken to see a veterinarian.
- Watery diarrhea
- Lack of appetite
- Hard or bloated belly
- Cough, sneezing and other respiratory symptoms
Coronaviruses can mutate quickly and a number of different types are found in dogs.
- Coronavirus enteritis (CCoV) – this is by far the most common. It is rarely serious, even for puppies and most adult dogs have almost no symptoms.
- Canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) – this is a new version of the virus that was discovered in 2003, probably a variant of a bovine coronavirus. It infects the lungs and causes coughing and mild respiratory symptoms similar to the human cold. It is rarely diagnosed, but is probably one of several infectious respiratory conditions responsible for the disease known as ‘kennel cough.’ Cases are more common in Europe and Japan, but American and Canadian dogs have also been found to have antibodies.
- Pantropic variants of canine coronavirus – this is a rare version of the disease that can cause potentially fatal infection throughout the body.
Causes of Canine Coronavirus Infection in Dogs
Coronavirus is spread through contact with other infected animals. Many factors can make it more likely to catch a serious infection.
- Staying in a kennel
- A crowded dog show
- Any condition of overcrowding
- Dog with a weakened immune system
- Combination with another infection
Diagnosis of Canine Coronavirus Infection in Dogs
Most cases of coronavirus are diagnosed symptomatically. CCoV will be suspected in ill puppies, and also dogs that live in overcrowded situations. Watery diarrhea in puppies is the most common symptom, but some cases also have vomiting and occasionally fever. The puppy’s belly may be swollen and hard. Adult dogs can occasionally show similar symptoms.
Coronavirus is sometimes confused with canine parvovirus which typically causes more severe illness in puppies. Definitive diagnoses can be made by examining the feces microscopically, but the procedure is complicated and rarely performed. There is no cure for either condition, so the symptoms must be treated supportively in both cases.
Canine respiratory coronavirus is difficult to diagnose as many types of respiratory infections present the same symptoms. A tissue swab may be sent for testing, but this would most likely only be done for a virus causing a serious epidemic at a kennel.
Treatment of Canine Coronavirus Infection in Dogs
Dehydration is the most common problem with puppies that have CCoV. The puppy should be encouraged to drink independently if possible. Pedialyte can be a good fluid to hydrate puppies. If the puppy will not or cannot drink, fluids and electrolytes will need to be given intravenously.
Various medications may be prescribed based on the symptoms. Metoclopramide can relax the intestine, and famotidine or another acid-blocker can help to coat the intestinal walls and protect them against inflammation. With puppies that are also vomiting, anti-emetics may be given. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to control any concurrent infection which could present a bigger problem with a weakened immune system. Some puppies have hookworm at the same time and need treatment for this as well. A heating pad may be helpful to maintain the proper temperature for young puppies.
CCoV is also treated supportively. Antibiotics are given to prevent bacterial infection. Dogs who develop pneumonia along with the virus could need oxygen, but this is rare.
Recovery of Canine Coronavirus Infection in Dogs
All infected dogs should be quarantined for several weeks to avoid spreading the disease. This helps to contain the virus somewhat, even though dogs that are asymptomatic can still carry infection. Cleaning with bleach or another disinfectant can effectively kill the virus, however, so maintaining sanitary conditions is the best way to stop an outbreak. Keeping dogs and puppies in good health also makes them less susceptible to infection. Puppies and dogs that are at high risk (such as kennel or show dogs) should be vaccinated against CCoV.
Canine Coronavirus Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My puppy vomited for 5 hours during the night and started watery diarrehea. Testing his feces my vet confirmed that he's got coronavirus although he was vaccinated two times of this virus at 8 and 11 weeks of age.
The treatment has started for 12 weeks but his dirrhea has not stopped yet.
Thank you so much for your quick response and advice.
I am sorry, I have written by mistake that his diarrhea has not stopped in 12 weeks, it has been 12 days since it started. He himself is 13 weeks old.
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I have a 6yo GSD rescue who I have had for 3 months. He is currently eating Canin breed specific food. I had to kennel him for 2 weeks. Within a day following pick up from kennel, he began sneezing and itching. Diarrhea is also present. Appetite is good. Drinks water more frequently. Should I take him to vet? Change diet? Not sure what to do.
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