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Canine Coronavirus

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnosis In-Depth

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize coronavirus, and exclude other diseases, including:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination

  • A complete blood count (CBC) is obtained by taking a sample of blood. This will help determine if an infection is present. In this case, your veterinarian will choose the appropriate antibiotic therapy.

  • Serum biochemistry tests are not specific for detection of coronavirus, but they do help your veterinarian determine your pet's hydration status, blood glucose level, kidney function and electrolyte levels. These can help determine the choice of fluid therapy and other medications.

  • Fecal tests are performed to exclude the possibility of intestinal parasite infestation (concurrent infection is common).

    Additional diagnostic tests may be recommended on an individual pet basis, including:

  • Abdominal X-rays may help exclude the possibility of other problems such as gastrointestinal ileus (paralysis of the bowel), obstruction of the bowel, a foreign substance in the stomach or intestine or an intussusception.

  • In atypical cases where an intestinal obstruction is likely, a barium contrast study (where the patient swallows or is administered barium) is recommended.

  • An ultrasound, which is an alternate and noninvasive method, may be used to examine your pet's abdominal organs. (NOTE: An ultrasound is not useful in cases where there is build up of abdominal gas.)

  • If confirmation of diagnosis is necessary, a fecal sample can be sent to a special lab with the ability to isolate the virus using electron microscopy or PCR testing. This test is not available to many veterinarians since it is usually reserved for research purposes.

    Treatment In-Depth

    Treatments for coronavirus may include one or more of the following:

  • Serious cases require hospitalization during which IV fluid therapy, antibiotics and anti-vomiting drugs may be administered.

  • Milder cases may do well with outpatient treatment consisting of subcutaneous fluid therapy, antibiotics, and anti-vomiting drugs.

  • Daily physical examination by your veterinarian to assess your pet's progress is vital.

  • No food or water until vomiting has stopped completely for 12 to 24 hours. Only then can water be offered in small amounts along with small frequent feedings of a bland diet, including such foods as Hill's Prescription Diet i/d, Iams Recovery Diet, Purina En Diet or Waltham Low Fat Diet. Your pet may also be given a bland homemade meal of carbohydrates (boiled rice or potatoes) and protein (lean hamburger, skinless chicken or low-fat cottage cheese) in small amounts. The return to regular dog food must be gradual over a 3 to 4 day period.

  • Fluid therapy is necessary if your pet is dehydrated, actively vomiting or has diarrhea. Severe cases will most likely require IV fluid therapy consisting of an electrolyte solution supplemented with potassium. Milder cases may be treated with SQ (subcutaneous) fluid therapy, which is administered in the loose skin over the back and more slowly absorbed.

  • Antibiotic therapy is often used to control any secondary bacterial infection. Commonly used antibiotics are cefazolin or ampicillinin.

  • Antiemetic drugs may be administered to your pet to control vomiting. Common drugs include: metoclopramide (Reglan®) given SQ or as continuous IV; chlorpromazine (Thorazine®); or prochlorperazine (Compazine®) by injection.

  • Gastrointestinal protectants are sometimes prescribed. Common drugs include: famotidine (Pepcid®), cimetidine (Tagament®) and sucralfate (Carafate®), prescribed only after vomiting is controlled.

  • Anti-diarrheal drugs, which help reduce bowel movements, are only prescribed for unresponsive diarrhea. These include: loperamide, oral opiods and diphenoxylate.

  • Pepto-Bismol® (Bismuth subsalicylate) is sometimes administered when vomiting has stopped.

  • Isolating your dog from other dogs is very important throughout treatment of coronavirus.

  • Worm infestation is treated once your pet is able to eat and drink. The common drug administered is fenbendazole (Panacur®), given orally for three consecutive days.

  • Most dogs affected with coronavirus recover quickly and lead normal lives.

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