Can Dogs Get Mononucleosis?

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While it can be lots of fun, smooching sometimes comes with hazards! You may have had or have heard of mononucleosis, or “the kissing disease”, as it is often called. This infection is not a good time, causing fevers, swollen lymph nodes and a particularly bad sore throat. What's worse, in some people the illness can last up to a month or longer! With their cute, furry faces, dogs are extremely kissable. Most pups will also gladly kiss back, licking your entire face if you let them. While it may make some cringe, these happy exchanges often involve a lot of spit swapping. But what if you have mono? Can you pass the infection to your dog? Do dogs get mono?

Can Dogs Get Mononucleosis?

NO!

There actually is no straight yes or no answer to this one. You see, mononucleosis in humans actually comes from the Epstein-Barr virus (a type of herpesvirus). This virus can indeed spread to dogs, and most often comes from exposure to a person with mono. That being said, the virus does not affect mononuclear cells in dogs. So technically, dogs can not get mono. A dog with EBV may still get sick, although this is rare, and the symptoms are not unlike those caused by mononucleosis. Recently there have been studies showing that EBV in dogs may be behind several types of cancers and other diseases.

Does My Dog Have Epstein-Barr Virus?

Now that you know your dog can get EBV, how do you watch for it? While most dogs will carry antibodies for the virus and never get sick, some may show signs that they are not feeling well.

Symptoms
If your dogs is one of the unlucky few that develop symptoms, you'll likely be able to feel that the lymph nodes in its neck are swollen. Your pup will probably have a harder time swallowing and may avoid food because his throat hurts.

Causes
It seems that the Epstein-Barr virus has mutated over the thousands of years that dogs and people have lived together. The virus is spread by sneezes, saliva, and coughs from an infected person to a surrounding pooch.

Diagnosis
This virus can be identified in dogs the same way that mononucleosis is confirmed in humans. Your vet can collect a sample of your dog's blood and send it for testing to find out if EBV is present.


Because new data suggests that EBV may be behind lymphoma (a type of cancer) in dogs, it may be a good idea to learn what the warning signs are for that as well. You can read about them here: Malignant Lymphoma in Dogs.

How Do I Treat Epstein-Barr Virus in My Dog?

EBV is a viral infection, which means there is no “cure” per se. If your dog comes down with this virus, his body will have to defeat it on its own by producing antibodies.

Treatment

To help your dog fight any virus, there are things you can do to help boost their immune system. Adding supplements to your pup's diet can help with milder cases, while intravenous fluids may stabilize a dog with a severe infection.

Recovery
Most dogs are able to get over an EBV infection on their own. In light of the newer findings about this virus, it may be wise to have your dog monitored for signs of lymphoma after having the Epstein-Barr virus.

 

If you'd like to hear from owners whose dogs have been diagnosed with lymphoma, or if you'd like to access a real vet to ask your own questions about the ailment, check out Malignant Lymphoma in Dogs .

How is Epstein-Barr Virus Similar in Dogs and Humans?

The originator of mononucleosis, EBV, affects both people and puppers. The virus causes some symptoms across the board, no matter what species you are. These include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Sore throat

  • Fever

How is Epstein-Barr Virus Different in Dogs and Humans?

It is believed that EBV changed over time to be able to infect dogs. Because of this mutation, the virus affects dogs a bit differently than it does humans. Some notable differences are:

  • Humans can develop a swollen liver or spleen from EBV, but canines do not

  • EBV can cause white blood cell cancer in dogs, but does not seem to in their owners

  • People sometimes break out in a rash from EBV, whereas dogs do not

Case Study

Most vets thought that dogs could not become infected with EBV, until some scientists in Taiwan proved otherwise. They took a group of pet dogs selected from different areas to test if this common herpes virus is present in pooches. After running blood tests on all of the dogs, 64% of dogs from the US tested positive! At this point in time, more research needs to be done to actually determine what this means for affected puppers.