Canine Herpes Virus: What Breeders Should KnowCanine herpes virus, more commonly known as fading puppy syndrome, can be a devastating disease if it hits your kennel.
Dog herpes is a very common virus that affects a large proportion of the dog population without their owners ever knowing. It’s believed as many as 80% of dogs will have been exposed to it at some point. Like other herpes viruses, most dogs are infected for life following exposure. The virus ‘hides’ in nerve cells and then reactivates periodically, usually at times of stress. Canine herpesviral infection is most severe in puppies up to one month old, although adult dogs can be affected too. Infections in pregnant dogs have been linked with abortions, stillbirths, and infertility. As a result, dog herpes is a big concern for breeders.
What are the symptoms of canine herpesvirus?
While both young puppies and adult dogs can be affected by dog herpes, the symptoms are much more obvious and severe in young puppies and pregnant bitches. Infected pups often stop suckling and are likely to suffer from lethargy, abdominal pain, nasal discharge, diarrhoea, rashes and breathing problems. It’s unlikely they will have a fever.
Older dogs may develop eye problems and respiratory disease (coughing, etc) as well as mild inflammation of the nasal passages (which may contribute to kennel cough), and inflammation of the genitals. Infections in pregnant dogs may be associated with abortions, stillbirths, and infertility.
Sadly, affected puppies usually die within a few days due to the severity of the disease, and the entire litter may be affected. Infection in pregnant dogs can cause infertility, stillbirth, and miscarriage.
What is fading puppy syndrome?Infection in puppies less than 2 to 3 weeks of age is usually fatal. Signs include trouble breathing, discharge from the nose, not nursing, persistent crying and hemorrhage (red spots) on the gums. The time from when the puppy is initially infected until it shows symptoms is four to six days, and the onset is sudden. After clinical signs arise, death usually occurs in 24 to 36 hours. Some puppies with mild signs may survive but can later develop serious neurological issues, such as trouble walking and blindness. Unfortunately, treatment in severely infected puppies is not rewarding, as there is almost a 100% mortality rate.
It’s worth noting that fading puppy syndrome is a catch-all title given to a whole host of illnesses and conditions that can cause death and ill-health in puppies. These include birth defects, infections acquired after birth and poor immune system development.
Is there treatment for canine herpesvirus?
Your vet is able to test for the virus but, as is the case with many viral diseases, treatment can be difficult and is often unsuccessful. Antiviral drugs do not appear to be effective and are hugely expensive. Your vet is, however, more likely to have success treating dogs who have been exposed to infected dogs but do not yet shown signs. Be aware that the herpes infection remains within the body of infected dogs for the rest of their lives, intermittently causing signs. Adult dogs often experience mild signs that improve without treatment.
What steps can I take to prevent my dog being infected?
In the case of canine herpes, prevention is better than cure. You should keep your pregnant dog away from other dogs during the last three weeks of their pregnancy and first three weeks of motherhood. It’s also important that you insist on anyone coming into contact with your dog and young puppies to wash their hands first.
You can also help prevent it by protecting BREEDING BITCHES and STUD DOG with
Puppies nursing from bitches that have previously been exposed to the virus or recieved the
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