Canine coronavirus is a contagious intestinal infection that usually produces a mild disease. However, it can be severe in young puppies and dogs who are stressed by concurrent infections. The distribution is worldwide, and dogs of all ages are affected.
Coronavirus is transmitted by contact with infected oral and fecal secretions. Following infection, the virus is shed in the stool for many months. Symptoms vary from none (the most common form) to outbreaks of acute diarrhea, typically occurring in a community of dogs. Dehydration can occur if the diarrhea is severe.
The early signs of illness are depression with loss of appetite, followed by vomiting and the passage of a foul-smelling, yellow to orange diarrhea that varies from soft to watery. The diarrhea may contain blood. Unlike parvovirus, fever is not common.
There is no readily available test to diagnose coronavirus during the acute illness. A rise in antibody titer in serum tested at the time of illness and two to six weeks later can provide a retrospective diagnosis.
Treatment: Treatment is supportive, and includes maintaining hydration and controlling vomiting and diarrhea, as described for the treatment of parvovirus. Antibiotics are not prescribed because of the mild nature of most infections.
Prevention: A vaccine is available to control coronavirus. However, because coronavirus is rarely fatal and tends to respond well to treatment, vaccination is not recommended.
This article is excerpted from “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.
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