Humans can conquer everything, except for a virus. With the recent pandemic, we’ve learned that it takes a microscopic virus can shake the entire world. We have already established that the Covid – 19 cannot harm dogs. However, there are a plethora of infectious viruses that can affect dogs. Let’s find out their names and how we can fight them.
9 Infectious Viruses That Can Affect Dogs
Here are 9 infectious viruses that can affect dogs. We have left the deadliest viruses for the very end, so be sure to stick to the end of this article.
1. Kennel Cough
Kennel cough is an extremely contagious viral infection in dogs. In fact, it is called kennel cough because it is known to infect all dogs in a single kennel or canines in close proximity. It is not contagious to humans and animals other than dogs.
Dogs with kennel cough tend to cough uncontrollably and have difficulty breathing. In severe cases, they start to discharge mucus through their mouth. There are vaccinations available for kennel cough but it is not commonly administered to dogs in India. However, giving them other vaccinations help them. When they have kennel cough, their immunity is very weak and can lead to a host of other viral infections.
Though most dogs recover from kennel cough just fine with timely medications, dogs that are worst affected by it are puppies and senior dogs with a weak immune system.
If your dog has been diagnosed with kennel cough and they have suddenly become very lethargic, we would request you to take them to the vet again. They may have pneumonia.
Resting indoors and having plenty of fluids is the best way to recover from this virus.
2. Canine Coronavirus
Canine coronavirus is very similar to canine parvovirus. However, the symptoms are not as severe.
Dogs can get infected by the poop of an infected dog and if one dog gets infected, all other unvaccinated dogs will get infected.
However, the symptoms can be anywhere from vomiting or having diarrhoea only once to vomiting and having loose stools consistently for an entire week.
We want to clarify that canine coronavirus is not the same as Covid-19. We cannot get infected by canine coronavirus but we can become carriers and infect other dogs with it.
Though dogs can get vaccinated against canine coronavirus, many holistic vets ask you not to get them vaccinated against it. Instead, they suggest getting them vaccinated against Parvovirus because dogs with the coronavirus have a weakened immune system and can get other bacterial and viral infections. The coronavirus combined with the parvovirus is a deadly combination even for the healthiest of dogs.
3. Canine Influenza
Canine influenza is a fairly new illness amongst dogs. The symptoms are very similar to Kennel cough but it is slightly more severe than Kennel cough with a mortality rate of 10%.
Dogs are infected from the mucus of an infected dog and it is highly contagious. It mostly affects dogs with a weak immune system. Other dogs that have been vaccinated or have a strong immune system, can still become carriers and infect a weaker dog. Humans are never infected with canine influenza but they can very easily become carriers.
4. Canine Herpes Virus
Canine herpes virus is also a very contagious infection with a 10% mortality rate. Dogs can pass it to other dogs by sneezing, coughing, coming into contact with other dogs and through sexual activities. Puppies can get infected from their mothers.
Sometimes, dogs have no symptoms and recover just fine. Other times, dogs can show symptoms like abdominal pain, lack of appetite, puppies may not want their mother’s milk, shivering, nasal discharge, and death.
Canine herpes virus also invites a host of other respiratory illnesses like kennel cough. Vaccinations for the canine herpes virus is still under development so, the best way to handle it is by preventing exposure.
5. Infectious Canine Hepatitis
Infectious canine hepatitis is a viral infection that affects a dog’s respiratory tract. In severe cases, it affects the liver and the kidneys and may cause multiple organ failures. It is a fairly severe illness and the mortality rate is around 10-30%.
It is perhaps called infectious canine hepatitis because a dog can infect other dogs for about 9 months after they have been cured.
Symptoms include fever, anorexia, nasal discharge, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, abdominal inflammation. Once the infection spreads to the liver and the kidneys, they may face organ inflammation and even organ failure.
ICH is rarely detected in the minor stages when it’s possible to treat them as an outpatient. Doctors usually have to keep them admitted and provide them with supportive care. Fever medication, hydration and frequent feeding are the only way to make them stronger. 30% of the time this is not enough and it leads to death.
The best way to protect your pet from ICH is through vaccinations and keep your pet away from other infected animals.
Parvovirus is another very contagious fatal viral infection that affects dogs all over the world. It mostly affects puppies and though our Indian street dogs develop a very strong immune system, any dog that remains unvaccinated can get the condition. Humans cannot get infected by parvovirus but we can become carriers.
Remember that parvovirus is almost always fatal, so, timely treatment and care is a must. Symptoms include severe diarrhoea, followed by vomiting and high fever.
If we cannot control the infection in the initial stages, they start pooping mucus and blood. There is a foul sweet smell in their diarrhoea. This is a very critical stage and delayed treatment at this time will allow the virus to migrate into the bloodstream from the stomach lining. If they don’t get treatment now, it will become fatal for them.
Since there aren’t any medicines to treat the virus, doctors can only give them supportive care. Dogs that are very critical might have to stay in the hospital for a few days. They become very dehydrated during this time, so, doctors give them Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) and drip.
Antibiotics are given to fight off secondary bacterial infections and they are given medicine for fever. Unfortunately, parvovirus is a serious condition and even with timely medical assistance, many dogs succumb to it.
The best way to keep your dogs safe is to vaccinate your dogs on time.
7. Canine Distemper
Puppies as young as 2 to 6 months are more likely to get distemper but dogs of all ages that are not vaccinated can get the condition or become carriers.
Canine distemper is a fatal viral infection amongst dogs that affects the respiratory system. If not treated on time, it can spread to the lungs and cause pneumonia, then it can spread to the gastrointestinal systems, genital systems and nervous systems.
Distemper has a very high mortality rate of about 50-70%. Those with this virus die and death is much higher amongst puppies and senior dogs or who have compromised immunity. Dogs that recover from the condition may in fact have permanent nerve damage. Some puppies can have underdeveloped enamel and teeth as a result of this virus.
Canine distemper is very contagious and dogs that have recovered from it can in fact spread the virus from months after they have recovered. The only way to keep your dog safe from canine distemper is timely vaccination and distancing them from infected dogs.
Rabies is perhaps the most feared infection in dogs, partly because it can affect any mammal and it is fatal, the mortality rate for rabies is close to 100%. Those surviving the infection tend to have permanent brain and nerve damage and cannot live a normal life.
The infection is passed from the bite of an infected animal but it can also spread from mucus and saliva of the infected animals. It is highly contagious and even if we protect our pets, stray dogs and cats by vaccinating them, we have no control of the quickly multiplying rodent population that may get infected with rabies.
The best way to protect yourself and your pets is by updating their vaccinations on time and if you are bitten by a mammal, any mammal, you must get yourself vaccinated as well.
Many people are under the impression that most stray animals are either rabid or are carriers of rabies. This is not true. Animals with rabies have very clear symptoms. Since it affects the brain, rabid animals have a sudden change in their behaviour. They suddenly show aggression, start eating strange inedible objects, show apprehension, are quick to attack etc. They also have red eyes, excessive drooling and eye dust.
The most humane way to deal with a rabid mammal is to euthanise them. Rabies causes a lot of pain and discomfort and death, and in the process, it can infect many people. Euthanising a rabid animal will give them peace and it will protect everyone else in the community from getting infected.
Pseudorabies is much more common in pigs and its an endemic in most parts of the world, especially America. However; dogs can get pseudorabies from pigs. This is why farm dogs or dogs that live under close proximity with wild or infected pigs can get Pseudorabies.
Symptoms include intense itching, paralysis, discharge from the nose and mouth and death. Just like rabies, pseudorabies also has a 100% mortality rate.
Though there are vaccinations for pseudorabies, it is only given to pigs. Dogs with this condition can only be separated and given supportive care until they die.
How To Protect Your Dog From Viral Infections
The best way to protect your pet from viral infections is through timely vaccinations and by maintaining sanitation. Though some viral infections are yet to have vaccinations, vaccinations against other infections will build your dog’s immunity.
Sometimes a single viral infection lowers their immunity. For instance, canine coronavirus is not harmful on its own, but it makes the dog highly susceptible to canine parvovirus. Hence it is important to vaccinate them against canine parvovirus.
Apart from vaccinations, proper hygiene and disinfection is mandatory. We would suggest whipping your healthy dog with a dog-safe disinfectant as Savlon or Benadryl diluted in water. Wipe their fur, belly and groin area. Also, wash their paws. This will be enough to keep your dog safe from viruses on the ground and on their coat.
Since humans are the number one carriers of canine viral infections, we suggest that you wash your hands, or use rubbing alcohol, after you touch unvaccinated dogs. Always wash your hands before and after touching your own dog, especially if you come from outside.
These simple tricks mentioned above will protect your dog from some of the most deadly and infectious viruses that can affect dogs all over the world.