Canine Herpes Virus - Symptoms and Treatment

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A small white dog lays and stares into the distance

Dr. Sara Ochoa author of Canine Herpes Virus - Symptoms and Treatment

Is your puppy coughing or having discharge from their nose? They could have canine herpes virus causing these symptoms. Most puppies are vaccinated for this virus, and it is not commonly seen, but if you adopted a dog from a shelter or found a litter of puppies, this could be the cause of these signs that you are seeing. If your puppy is sick, you should take them to a vet right away as the earlier you start treating these issues, the quicker they will recover.

What Is Canine Herpes Virus? 

Canine Herpes Virus is a viral infection that affects the reproductive organs of adult dogs. It affects the respiratory organs of puppies.  This is usually very dangerous and usually fatal in puppies.  This virus can spread between dogs and puppies very quickly, and most puppies who have herpes virus usually die very quickly.  

What are the Symptoms of Canine Herpes Virus? 

The symptoms of canine herpes virus are often not visible until sometimes it is too late to do anything. Usually, in adult dogs, we rarely even seen any symptoms at all. The few signs that we do see that would have us concerned that a dog may have canine herpes virus are stillbirth, reoccurring kennel cough, and raised sores around their genitals.

In puppies, the signs that are seen are more apparent. The most common signs that are seen in puppies with the canine herpes virus are:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Painful Abdomen
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Hemorrhages

How did my dog get Canine Herpes Virus?

The canine herpes virus lives in your dog's reproductive and respiratory tracts.  In adult dogs, this virus is transmitted in the air and direct contact.  This can be when your dog is doing one of the following with an infected dog: 

  • Sneezing on your dog, 
  • Coughing on your dog, 
  • Touching noses with another dog
  • Sniffing each other, 
  • Licking or 
  • Sexual activities 

A puppy will usually catch this disease in the birth canal or from secretions from the nose or mouth of the infected mother shortly after birth. Your puppy can also spread this virus to another puppy very easily. If one puppy in your litter has the canine herpes virus, this does not mean that all the puppies are infected. If you suspect that one of your puppies may have canine herpes virus, it would be best to isolate this puppy from the rest of the litter.  

How does my Vet Diagnose Canine Herpes Virus?

There are many ways that your vet would know if your puppy has a canine herpes virus.  If your puppies die shortly after they are born or are stillborn, your vet can do a necropsy to determine the cause of death.  There are many reasons that a puppy could die early in life, though, so your vet will want to look at all the puppies to make sure that there is not anything wrong.  

Your adult dog is usually tested for canine herpes virus if they are used for breeding.  Your dog will also be tested if your vet suspects that they may have the canine herpes virus.  This will be a simple blood test that is sent to the lab to see if your dog does have a canine herpes virus, causing these signs and symptoms.  This test usually just test for exposure to the canine herpes virus and not usually an active infection.  There are many tests that can be done to try to see if this is due to an active infection or not. 

What is the Treatment for Canine Herpes Virus? 

If you think that your dog may have canine herpes virus, you should take your dog to the vet right away.  If it is after hours, take your dog to the nearest emergency vet for treatment. Usually, treatment is needed as soon as possible for your dog to make a successful recovery. 

Your vet will treat your dog depending on what signs your dog is showing.  Many of these dogs will need fluids, antiviral and antibiotics to help them recover. It is very important to keep your dog warm as they can become very cold due to this virus needing a cold temperature to survive.  Many times despite sudden and aggressive treatment, some of these dogs do not survive.   

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Preventing Canine Herpes Virus

The best way to prevent this disease is to prevent your dog from being exposed to this virus. Any dog that is intended for breeding need to be tested for the canine herpes virus. While there is a vaccine for this virus, it is not yet approved for use in the United States.

If you think that your dog has canine herpes virus or is showing any of these signs, you should take them to a vet right away. Also, keep this dog or puppy away from any other dog to help decrease the chance that this disease is transferred to any other dog that you have. Your vet will start treatment, and hopefully, your dog will start to feel better!

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Meet The Author 

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM author of Canine Herpes Virus - Symptoms and Treatment Why Is My Dog Itching So Much

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM

Since she was a little girl, Dr. Ochoa knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals, she is now a great source of knowledge for others. Dr. Ochoa lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies: Ruby the Schnoodle and Bam-Bam the bunny.