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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Canine Herpesvirus




Condition Overview

Canine herpesvirius is widespread in the dog population and produces a variety of illnesses. It is one of the agents implicated in the kennel cough complex.


Females with vaginitis develop hemorrhagic areas and blister-like lesions of the vaginal mucosa. These lesions may reappear when the female comes into heat. Intrauterine infections that progress from the vagina are associated with early embryonic loss, abortions, and stillbirths.

This is an insidious disease. The mother is healthy and the puppies nurse in a normal manner until shortly before death. The illness begins with an abrupt cessation of nursing, followed by abdominal distention, chilling, lack of coordination, and a yellow green diarrhea. Puppies are in agony and will cry out pitifully. Death usually occurs in 24 hours.


In puppies, herpesvirus is acquired by the mother during breeding and takes up residence in her vagina. Puppies acquire the virus while in utero, during passage through the birth canal, or by direct contact with their mother and infected litter mates.


Herpesvirus infection can be confirmed by isolating the virus from the infected tissue.


There is no effective treatment for this condition. A vaccine is not available in the united states at this time, but there is currently one in use in Europe. [further information needed]

In puppies, unaffected litter mates should be placed in a homemade incubator in a room with an ambient temperature of 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C). Since the virus does not replicate well at temperatures above 98 degrees F (36.6 degrees C), this may prevent it from reproducing and causing infection. It should be noted, however, that puppies who recover may develop irreversible neurological symptoms including lack of coordination, dizziness, and blindness.


Most dogs will be exposed to herpes at some time in their lives. As long as it is not during the critical reproductive periods, it tends to be a mild respiratory infection and is not of consequence. Ideally females should be isolated (not taken to shows or other canine events, or exposed to large numbers of dogs) when they are being used for breeding.

Infected females develop immunity and subsequent litters are rarely affected. Ideally, pregnant females should be isolated for three weeks before and after whelping meaning no contact with dogs going to and from shows, kennels, training classes, sporting events, and things of the sort.


Please contact your veterinarian for advice if you suspect your pet may have this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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