Sick puppy

A friend’s puppy was recently diagnosed with canine enteric coronavirus. We’re bringing a new pup home soon and are concerned that he might get it, too. What exactly is canine enteric coronavirus?

Canine enteric coronavirus, or CCoV, as it’s known for short, was first recognized in 1971 after a group of military dogs suffered an outbreak of gastroenteritis.

So how do you know if your puppy is at risk?

CCoV Basics

Puppies generally pick up the enteric disease through contact with infected feces. A puppy with CCoV may develop a mild case of diarrhea. Other signs may include depression, appetite loss, vomiting and, rarely, fever. The severity of signs can depend on factors such as a puppy’s age, the level of exposure to the virus and how much maternal immunity has been transferred to the puppy.

A CCoV infection usually affects puppies younger than 12 weeks and is typically most severe in pups younger than 6 weeks. While signs of infection are usually mild, severe infections accompanied by dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can lead to death. In most cases, the infection typically runs its course in eight to 10 days.

The virus is highly contagious, so it is most often seen in situations where dogs are housed together in large numbers, such as boarding kennels, breeding facilities, pet stores and shelters. Other possible risk factors include going to the groomer or dog park or simply living in a home with many dogs. Some dogs can shed the virus for several months after infection.

The virus succumbs to most disinfectants. Regularly disposing of feces and taking steps to keep the environment disinfected are the best ways to reduce transmission of and exposure to the virus.

When to Worry

Fortunately, severe disease is uncommon compared with other intestinal viruses such as parvovirus. However, signs can become more severe when the pup is also infected with parvovirus.

That said, a 2014 report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, says that emerging variants of the virus can be much more serious — and even deadly. In France, Belgium, Italy and Australia, infections by highly virulent CCoVs have been documented in puppies without apparent co-infections, the report states. These variants are described as pantropic, meaning they can escape the enteric tract, or small intestine, and spread throughout the body. Fortunately, this type of infection is rare, but it suggests the importance of looking for CCoV as a cause of illness if canine parvovirus (CPV) has been ruled out.

Vaccine Facts

Should your puppy be vaccinated for canine coronavirus? The American Animal Hospital Association does not consider it a core vaccine, meaning it’s not one that every puppy should receive. That’s because the vaccines currently available aren’t fully effective. They can reduce but not eliminate intestinal shedding of the virus, and it is unknown if they are effective against pantropic strains. And according to the UC-Davis recommendations, when puppies are infected with both CCoV and canine parvovirus, it’s CPV that is the “big bad.” Vaccination against CPV — which is a core vaccine — should be most helpful in protecting the puppy from clinical signs.

Consider, too, that it’s unlikely that a young puppy will encounter the crowded conditions that spawn the spread of the disease. Your new puppy is too young, we hope, to be going to a boarding kennel, shelter or dog park.

If your puppy does develop CCoV-related gastroenteritis, the primary treatment is supportive care. That involves administration of fluids and electrolytes to help him stay hydrated and possibly other medications for secondary infections. Ideally, he should be back to his happy puppy self in 10 days or less.

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