Canine Herpes Virus (CHV-1)

Where is the herpes virus found?
  • Herpes virus is present worldwide in domestic and wild dogs.
  • Canine herpes virus has been found to only infect dogs.
  • Infection can be a result of direct contact with infectious bodily fluids.
  • The virus can be intermittently shed in nasal secretions and rarely in genital secretions.
  • Canine herpes virus is not stable in the environment.
How can my puppy get infected?
  • Puppies may become infected while still in utero. This will only occur when the mother is infected for the first time during pregnancy. Subsequent pregnanices should not be affected as the mother will have produced enough protective antibodies against the virus.
  • Infection in utero may cause death of fetuses, or death of neonates shortly after birth.
  • Mothers infected mid-gestation will be asymptomatic, but may abort weak or stillborn puppies.
  • Puppies can also become infected during the birthing process as they pass through the birth canal.
  • Puppies become infected from contact with oronasal secretions from the mother or other dogs in the kennel.
  • Infected littermates or neighbouring dogs can also serve as sources of infection.
  • Canine herpes virus is generally fatal in neonatal pups that lack immunity derived from their mothers.
  • Asymptomatic individuals may shed the herpes virus for months or years.
  • Shedding of the virus can be provoked by stress and/or immunosuppression.
  • Incubation period for the virus is between 6 to 10 days.
  • Affected puppies are 1 to 3 weeks old at time of onset of clinical signs.
  • Puppies infected at <1 week of age show a litter mortality of 100%. This occurs over a period of a few days to a week.
  • If puppies are 2 to 3 weeks old at time of exposure, the infection is rarely fatal.

What are the clinical signs?
  • Dogs infected older than 1 to 2 weeks of age are generally asymptomatic.
  • Neonates that become infected are generally sick for 1 to 3 days.
  • Typical clinical signs include:
  • Possible clinical signs may include:
      • serous or bloody nasal discharge
      • petechiae (small bruises) are common on mucus membranes
  • Body temperature is not usually elevated.

Nasal discharge in a dog.
Is there a treatment available?
  • Antiviral treatments are usually unsuccessful and costly.
  • If given before onset of symptoms, however, the drug Vidarabin has some success in treating puppies.
  • If puppies survive after treatment with Vidarabin, they are not protected from central nervous system or heart damage.
  • Puppies can be protected during kennel outbreaks by injecting 1 to 2 ml of immune sera from infected mothers prior to exposure.
How can I prevent infection?
  • Luckily, the herpes virus does not survive in the environment as it has a relatively easily destroyed envelope that can be readily killed by common disinfectants.
  • Currently a vaccine is available in Europe.
  • This vaccine's ability to reduce neonatal mortality, however, is not well documented.
  • It is safe practice to isolate a pregnant female 3 weeks before whelping and 3 weeks after birth of the puppies.

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