Coronavirus wasn't reported in canines until the 1970s. While most dogs recover from canine coronavirus infection, this highly contagious disease can cause your pup some misery while he's battling it. Dogs pick it up from contact with infected feces, showing signs of infection within one to three days of exposure. Coronavirus doesn't play favorites -- it affects all breeds equally, but puppies are most likely to suffer from it.
A coronavirus vaccine is included among "puppy" shot combinations, along with protection from parvovirus, distemper and adenovirus, all more serious diseases. Adult dogs don't usually receive coronavirus as part of their core vaccines unless their lifestyle exposes them to many strange dogs. Owners who compete regularly at dog shows or in agility trials might want to vaccinate their adult dog for added protection.
You might not realize your adult dog is suffering from a coronavirus infection. He might throw up once or experience diarrhea, but it's easily mistaken for a little indigestion, which coronavirus resembles in grown dogs. In more serious cases, an adult dog might run a fever and become depressed. The infection runs its course in about a week. Puppies are another story. Little ones might have severe bouts of diarrhea, resulting in dehydration and even death.
Since no real test exists for coronavirus, your vet bases her diagnosis on a dog's symptoms. While adult dogs don't usually require treatment, puppies need supportive care. There's no cure for coronavirus, so treatment consists of keeping puppies warm and giving intravenous fluids if they become dehydrated. Because it's so contagious, keep sick dogs away from other canines. After infection, dogs shed the virus in their poop for two weeks or more.
If your puppy hasn't been vaccinated, keep him away from other dogs until he receives his shots. Since it spreads through contact with feces, keep him away from any dog poop he encounters on walks. The virus is quite common -- as many as 70 percent of dogs have been exposed to it. The coronavirus is easily killed with diluted bleach, so you can clean any potentially contaminated areas.
By Jane Meggitt
PetMD: Canine Coronavirus Infection in Dogs
Baker Institute for Animal Health: An Overview of Canine Coronavirus
Spooner Vet Clinic and Animal Care Clinic: Coronavirus Infection in Dogs
Vetstreet: Canine Coronavirus Vaccine
About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.