Can Dogs Get Genital Herpes?

We’ve all heard of the scourge of genital herpes in humans, but what about dogs? Can your four-legged best friend get genital herpes? 

In humans, genital herpes is one of the most common forms of sexually transmitted diseases. Most humans do not exhibit any symptoms. However, some may suffer from the occasional outbreak of sores around the genitals.

Can Dogs Get Genital Herpes?

Yes, dogs most certainly can get genital herpes. However, even if your dog does have genital herpes, you may never know it because the condition does not present the way it does in humans. Most adult dogs with the canine herpesvirus (CHV) never show so much as a single symptom. 

CHV is also known as "fading puppy syndrome". It is a viral syndrome that is known to infect an adult dog's reproductive organs. Although most adult dogs do not show any real symptoms, CHV is considered the leading cause of death in newborn puppies. 

There is no scientific data to suggest that humans can give herpes to dogs or vice versa as the two strains of this disease are not the same. If you suspect your dog might have canine herpes virus, you should take them to the vet for testing to determine if they have the disease. If they test positive, you should avoid breeding as this serious illness can be passed on to any puppies and may cause their death.

Does My Dog Have Genital Herpes?

Symptoms

The reality is that most adult dogs never display any symptoms of genital herpes and symptoms that do manifest tend to not stick around for very long. However, there are a few symptoms you should be on the lookout for:

In both sexes:

  • Upper respiratory issues
  • Kennel cough
  • Pain

In females:

  • Pus-filled vaginal discharge
  • Abortion or reabsorption of fetuses
  • Stillborn fetuses

In males:

  • Inflammation of the penis

In puppies

  • Failure to nurse
  • Lethargy
  • Eye conditions
  • Diarrhea
  • Nasal discharge
  • Rash

Causes

The canine genital herpes virus is transmitted in oral and nasal secretions, as well as in the vaginal secretions of female dogs. Puppies that are exposed before birth face the most danger. Puppies less than 3 weeks old face a guarded prognosis of recovery from the canine herpes virus.

Diagnosis

  • In the event a puppy dies shortly after birth or is stillborn, the vet should perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

  • Adult dogs are typically tested for the herpes virus if they are going to be used for breeding or if anything in their history indicates they might be carrying the virus.

  • Your vet may also recommend laboratory testing if you suspect your dog may have been exposed to the virus.

To learn more about genital herpes in dogs please visit our condition guide Canine Herpes Virus Infection.

How Do I Treat My Dog's Genital Herpes?

In most cases, the best form of treatment for canine herpes virus in adult dogs is to simply let the virus run its course because the effects are mild. However, despite aggressive treatment, newborn puppies often succumb to the disease.

Treatment

There are no known forms of effective treatment to cure CHV; once contracted, your dog will always be a carrier in much the same way as humans.

  • In adult dogs, rest and plenty of TLC are the only treatment needed to help your dog get past the outbreak

  • In puppies, the vet may try to keep them warm, feed them intraorally and may try giving them a serum created from the blood of a dog who has recently recovered from an outbreak of the virus.

  • The simple reality is that most puppies with CHV die within a few days and those that do survive tend to have heart damage and nervous system disorders.

Recovery

  • Adult dogs who get plenty of rest and good nutrition will recover quickly from an outbreak.

  • Adults may become carriers for the rest of their lives

  • Females may have litters that are either healthy or infected with the virus

  • Puppies have a very slim chance of surviving being born with herpes

  • Puppies that do survive typically have neurological defects

Find out more about canine herpesvirus and learn about other dog owners’ experiences by reading our Condition Guide.

How is Genital Herpes Similar in Dogs and Humans?

Although the actual herpes viruses in humans and dogs are very different, there are a few similarities between genital herpes in people and dogs, including:

  • Flu-like symptoms

  • Most dogs and people show few, if any signs, they have the virus

However, just because your dog is not displaying any symptoms of the virus does not mean you should not have them tested, especially if you plan to use your dog for breeding purposes.

How is Genital Herpes in Dogs Different to Humans?

There are a few major differences in how herpes affects dogs in comparison to how it affects humans.

  • Female dogs with herpes may reabsorb their fetuses if infected very early in the pregnancy

  • The human body does not commonly reabsorb a fetus

  • Female dogs may have stillborn pups

  • Puppies born with CHV have a very high death rate  

  • Neonatal herpes is not typically fatal in human babies

  • Female dogs pass herpes on to their puppies

  • There is less than a 0.1 percent chance of herpes being passed from mother to human baby

Case Study

A female Poodle was expecting a litter of pups. Everything seemed to indicate the dog's pregnancy was going along quite normally. She had not shown any signs of being ill before or during her pregnancy and had plenty of energy up until the last few days. On the night of delivery, things seemed to be progressing normally until all but one of the pups was stillborn. The one that did survive died within hours. 

All of the puppies were taken to the vet for a necropsy. The results indicated each of the puppies was infected with the canine herpes virus. Upon testing, it was found that the mother carried the virus without showing any signs or symptoms that might indicate she had a problem. 

Be sure to have your dog tested regularly for CHV and if they are taken to a kennel or doggy daycare on a regular basis, you might recommend that all other dogs they come into contact with be tested.

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