Dogs everywhere in the world are susceptible to infectious canine hepatitis, but in places where anti-hepatitis vaccine is routinely administered, the incidence is rare. The symptoms include fever that may be either slight or high, and very low WBC count with difficulty in blood clotting. The dog may appear to be very depressed and its mucous membranes congested.
Canine adenovirus 1 is the cause of infectious canine hepatitis. Dogs get infected with this virus when they ingest the urine, stools or saliva of other dogs with this infection. Even after a dog recovers from the disease, it may remain infectious for up to 6 months, releasing the virus through its urine. Vital organs like the lungs, liver, spleen and the kidneys are the most affected, even though the virus can affect other organs also. A condition called ‘blue eye’ characterized by cloudy corneas often results from immune reactions towards the infection. It may result in long-term damage to the kidneys too.
Canine hepatitis may cause death. Young dogs are more likely to die from the disease. High fever, of more than 1040F and lasting one to six days, is the most common symptom. If the fever subsides within the same day, there may not be any indication of the disease other than the low WBC count that develops on the subsequent day. When the fever is prolonged, high heart rate and other symptoms develop, besides the drop in WBC. The more severe the infection, the higher the temperature, and the fever may stay longer too. All through this period, the WBC count remains low.
Lack of appetite and depression are common symptoms. The dog may have a clear discharge from its eyes and nose too. Pain in the stomach, accompanied by vomiting, occurs in some cases. The mouth and nose may look red and bruised. Enlargement of tonsils as well as swelling of the body may be present.
Sudden onset of bleeding is usually an indication of infectious canine hepatitis, but only lab tests can confirm it. The bleeding is difficult to stop due to abnormalities in blood clotting. Respiratory distress may be present. The disease rarely affects the central nervous system, but bleeding in the brain may result in seizures in severe cases. It may cause minor paralysis too. Even after recovering from the disease, the dog may fail to put on weight in spite of eating well.
The dog may require blood transfusions to make up for the blood lost. Fluids may have to be administered intravenously until the dog recovers sufficiently. General antibiotics may be prescribed to for secondary bacterial infections. The blue eye does not require treatment, but analgesic eye ointments may be given to relieve painful spasms that usually accompany the clouded corneas. Protection of the eyes from bright light is essential at this time.
This disease can be easily prevented through vaccination. It is often administered when the puppy is being vaccinated against the distemper virus. Revaccinating the dog every year will extend the protection.