What is Canine Coronavirus?
Canine coronavirus (CCV) is a virus of the Coronaviridae family. It causes intestinal disease in dogs by replicating itself in the small intestine. Fortunately, this virus usually causes only mild disease and some dogs that become infected may not show any symptoms at all. The virus can cause more of a problem in puppies, dogs with suppressed immune systems or if a dog becomes infected with more than one type of intestinal pathogen alongside canine coronavirus.
What are the symptoms of Canine Coronavirus?
In healthy adult dogs, CCV usually doesn’t cause any apparent infection, symptoms are usually non-existent or there is one episode of vomiting or diarrhea that quickly resolves. Puppies and/or dogs with a suppressed immune system or that are dealing with other intestinal pathogens at the same time are at higher risk for developing a more serious infection or complications due to the coronavirus. These symptoms can include:
Loss of appetite
Mild respiratory concerns
How is Canine Coronavirus diagnosed?
If the symptoms are not severe and the dog doing well otherwise, CCV is usually not diagnosed. The veterinarian will consider the dog’s medical history, clinical signs, vaccination history and physical exam and treat based on symptoms. If a specific diagnosis is needed, fecal samples can be submitted to the lab for PCR testing for coronavirus specifically or for a comprehensive diarrhea panel to rule out or diagnose many other intestinal pathogens.
If your dog is showing severe symptoms diagnostic testing will be recommended to rule out other diseases such as intestinal parasitism, parvovirus infection, canine distemper, intestinal bacteria imbalance, other intestinal pathogens and to identify coronavirus, if in fact it is what is causing the symptoms.
How is Canine Coronavirus treated and prevented?
Most healthy adult dogs will recover from the infection on their own without the need for medication, as the virus should be taken care of by the dog’s own immune response. If the diarrhea or other symptoms are persisting, but remain mild, probiotics, antibiotics and/or antiemetics will be prescribed to help control the symptoms. If the infection results in severe symptoms, hospitalization and IV fluids will be needed to support the dog until their own immune system can take over and clear the virus.
If your dog is hospitalized, treatment will include:
IV fluid therapy: to replace the fluid losses from vomiting and diarrhea and balance electrolytes
IV antibiotic therapy: to prevent or treat sepsis from intestinal bacteria leaking into the bloodstream
Injectable antiemetics: to control nausea and vomiting
Injectable pain medications: to provide comfort to the patient during recovery
Keep in mind that after recovery, your dog can shed the virus in their feces for up to 6 months. It is important to keep kennel and bedding areas clean, and always clean up after your dog in public and private spaces to limit the spread of the virus.
A vaccination for the prevention of CCV is available, but is not considered a core vaccine. If you are wanting your dog vaccinated against CCV please advise the veterinary clinic ahead of time they can check into the availability of the vaccine for you. Some clinics will routinely vaccinate puppies for CCV since they have undeveloped immune systems and are most vulnerable to the severe complications associated with this virus.