Can Dogs Get Viruses?

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Unfortunately, you never appreciate your health until you lose it. So when a cold, flu or virus strikes you down, you’re left appreciating those free airways and the sprightly energy you normally enjoy. Viruses, in particular, can be rather nasty. Viruses can lead to anything from diarrhea and vomiting to paralysis and death. Serious caution must also be taken when it comes to handling viruses as so many are highly contagious. But can your dog also get viruses?

Can Dogs Get Viruses?

YES!

People may think viruses are a uniquely human problem, caused by our admittedly sometimes questionable lifestyle choices, but in actual fact, dogs can absolutely get viruses too. There are a number of viruses your dog can get, from parvovirus and coronavirus to astrovirus and rabies virus. Knowing what symptoms to look out for and how to go about treatment could not only save your dog considerable pain, but it could also save his life!

Does My Dog Have a Virus?

Viruses take many different shapes and forms, but there are a surprisingly high number of common symptoms to keep an eye out for. Does your dog have a peculiar rash on its body? Does your dog have diarrhea or is he persistently vomiting? Does your dog seem irritable, aggressive and antisocial? Has your dog lost its appetite and a lot of weight? All of these could be indicators that your dog is suffering from a virus.

But what causes viruses to develop in your dog’s body? Viruses are often caught when your dog comes into direct contact with infected animals or objects. The viruses then take hold of your dog’s body and wage war on its immune system. They can affect your dog’s brain, limbs, and other vital organs.

How your vet diagnoses the virus will depend on the suspected virus. For some viruses, a blood test and a physical examination will be all that is needed. Other viruses like rabies cannot be diagnosed until the dog has died and tissue from the brain can be taken for analysis.

For information on the symptoms, causes, and diagnosis of a particularly common virus in dogs, see our guide to Parvo in Dogs.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Virus?

How your vet decides to treat your dog will depend entirely on the virus. For example, with the parvovirus, electrolytes may have to be administered via an IV and anti-emetics may be given to your dog to control vomiting. Full recovery, though, will probably only take around a week.


For viruses like rabies, on the other hand, there is no treatment option at all. Dogs can only be quarantined and monitored until death within 7to 10 days. So owners should not expect any sort of recovery at all with some viruses.

A virus that falls somewhere in the middle of the severity spectrum, is the coronavirus. It is an infectious disease of the intestines and is highly contagious. Your dog may need various types of medication to treat and protect the intestine. Your dog will need to be quarantined for several weeks to avoid spreading the virus, so full recovery is likely to take at least a month.

For information on a common intestinal infection and for first-hand accounts from other owners and questions answered by our in-house vets, read Rotavirus in Dogs .

How Are Viruses Similar in Dogs and Humans?

You would be surprised to see quite how similar symptoms of viruses can be in dogs, humans and other animals. A lot of viruses manifest themselves in the following common ways:

  • Viruses can often cause both dogs and humans to suffer with persistent vomiting and diarrhea.

  • In both dogs and humans, viruses can leave individuals feeling lethargic and unable to go about their usual daily activities.

  • Both dogs and humans may have visible rashes and inflammation on the skin.

  • Both may become aggressive and antisocial when they have viruses like the rabies virus.

How Are Viruses Different in Dogs and Humans?

While there are a number of similarities then in the symptoms of viruses, there are also a number of noticeable differences seen between dogs and humans. Some of the most noticeable differences are:

  • Viruses in dogs can cause hair loss and damage to the coat, a symptom obviously not seen in humans.

  • Viruses in dogs can visibly affect a dog’s tail. Unless you have a tail, you are probably safe from that particular symptom.

  • Dogs’ paws can become hardened and crusty when suffering with a virus, not a symptom that will indicate a virus in humans.

Case Study

Stanza was an 8-year-old Irish Retriever when she was unfortunately bitten by a bat that was infected with the rabies virus. She quickly turned delirious and aggressive. The vet immediately quarantined her to prevent any other humans or animals contracting the virus. She, unfortunately, died a week later. But this case highlighted the significant danger viruses can pose to dogs and that they can also contract them from unlikely places. So being aware of the symptoms, causes and dangers of canine viruses is essential!