Overview of Coronavirus in Dogs
Coronavirus (“Corona,” for short) is a virus causing sudden infection in puppies and dogs. It invades the rapidly growing cells of the intestinal lining resulting in nausea, lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. The disease can vary from showing no signs of illness at all to severe illness. However, coronavirus does not result in the same degree of illness associated with parvovirus.
Infection is generally attributed to ingestion of material contaminated by dog feces (stool or bowel movement) and can occur when a dog smells or licks the ground; direct contact with another dog is not necessary for infection. Coronavirus is shed in the feces of infected dogs for months after initial ingestion. Dogs at highest risk for infection are unvaccinated puppies or those that have not yet completed their vaccine series.
Kennel environments and dog shows have led to outbreaks of coronavirus. Dogs of all ages can be infected, but puppies and younger dogs are more susceptible. Unsanitary and/or overcrowded kennels may increase your pet’s chance of infection and concurrent infection with parasites, other bacteria or viruses may also increase susceptibility to infection.
Proper vaccination of your pet can best prevent the disease.
What to Watch For
Symptoms of Canine Coronavirus may include:
Loss of appetite (anorexia)
Diarrhea (often containing foul-smelling blood)
These are all common symptoms that should prompt you to visit your veterinarian.
Diagnosis of Coronavirus in Dogs
The signs of coronavirus are similar to parvovirus, so the initial diagnostic tests will likely include a parvoviral test, to rule out the presence of this virus. For a definitive diagnosis of coronavirus infection, isolation and identification can be done in some specialized labs.
However, since coronavirus is rarely fatal and readily responds to supportive care, most veterinarians diagnose corona based on typical clinical signs, ruling out other causes of gastroenteritis such as intestinal obstruction and a negative parvo test. Your veterinarian will probably recommend diagnostic tests and, depending on severity of illness, a 24-hour hospital stay for treatment.
Complete medical history and physical examination
Blood tests, stool examination and abdominal X-rays to determine the severity of the infection or exclude other causes of the symptoms.
Treatment of Coronavirus in Dogs
Therapy is dependent upon the severity of the clinical symptoms. Therapy may include:
Constant intravenous (IV) fluid therapy, antibiotics and/or other drugs used to control nausea and vomiting may be administered.
Injectable fluids under the skin and medications for home care in mild cases.
Allow your pet to rest and regain his strength.
Feces should be picked up and kept from other dogs, because most likely they contain the virus.
Once vomiting has stopped, encourage water intake. Offer your pet a small amount of water and a bland diet. Your veterinarian may recommend a prescription diet.
If your pet is not eating or drinking, is continually tired, vomiting and/or still has diarrhea, call your veterinarian. It takes a few days for stools to normalize.
Vaccinate your pet regularly to help prevent infection. (NOTE: Immunity to coronavirus develops after infection, but it is necessary to schedule booster immunizations (“shots”) with your veterinarian to protect from other viruses).
Minimize contact of unvaccinated puppies with other dogs that may be sick or unvaccinated. This should include avoiding areas where other sick pets may have been. Your pet is most at risk until fully vaccinated (usually 20-24 weeks of age).
In-depth Information on Coronavirus in Dogs
Coronavirus can have symptoms in dogs that are similar to many other diseases. These diseases may include:
Dietary indiscretion-a common cause of vomiting and diarrhea
Food-borne bacterial infection – some foods can give dogs gas or diarrhea, a similar symptom to coronavirus
Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HE)-an inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract causing bloody diarrhea
Ileus – a condition in which normal bowel movement is obstructed causing a “functional obstruction” of the intestine
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – a condition in which inflamed cells clog the intestinal wall causing chronic vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss; biopsy of affected intestine is required for diagnosis
Intussusception-a prolapse or “telescoping” of one portion of the intestinal tract into another causing partial or complete obstruction of the bowel, a symptom which can also be a complication of coronavirus; X-rays or an ultrasound may be necessary for diagnosis
Mechanical obstruction or foreign body – an object ingested by your pet that is stuck in a part of the intestine (a toy, bone, piece of clothing, etc., for example)
Other viral infections of the intestines – parvovirus and other viruses with similar symptoms of coronavirus
Pancreatitis – an inflammation of the pancreas (the digestive gland located between the liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach and duodenum)
Parasites – intestinal worms that feed on an animal host (some also cause bloody diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, weight loss and lethargy) causing similar symptoms of coronavirus