Canine hepatitis in dogs

Infectious canine hepatitis is a very serious condition caused by a highly infectious virus that affects the liver. It can develop extremely quickly in puppies and dogs.
Young Labrador Retriever lying down on an examination table in a vets office.

What is infectious canine hepatitis?

Infectious canine hepatitis is a very serious condition worldwide, caused by a highly infectious virus that affects the liver.

It can develop extremely quickly in puppies and dogs. Mortality rates in dogs with canine hepatitis range from 10 - 30% and is typically highest in very young dogs.

What are the symptoms of infectious canine hepatitis?

A puppy or dog with infectious canine hepatitis will show a variety of different symptoms. You should always look for:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • An enlarged liver
  • Abdominal pain

A puppy or dog with a more severe case of infectious canine hepatitis may also have the following symptoms:

  • Bruising of the skin
  • Red dots on the skin
  • Swollen and enlarged lymph nodes

What causes infectious canine hepatitis?

Infectious canine hepatitis is transmitted through the blood, nasal discharge, saliva, urine, or faeces of infected dogs.

It’s a virus that can survive for a long time in canine communities and is difficult to remove as it is resistant to lipid solvents such as ether, as well as to acid and formalin.

Can my puppy be vaccinated against infectious canine hepatitis?

Infectious canine hepatitis can be prevented with the right vaccination. It’s therefore so important that they get the necessary jabs at the right age.

In most instances puppies usually begin a vaccination programme at the age of six to eight weeks, with the infectious canine hepatitis vaccination given at between seven to nine weeks.

Your puppy will be given their first booster for infectious canine hepatitis at 11 – 13 weeks. Only after this first booster will your puppy be protected.

How do I know if my puppy needs the vaccine?

The vaccines provided to puppies consist of mandatory and recommended. The vaccine for infectious canine hepatitis is one of the mandatory vaccines and so will always be given to your puppy as part of the vaccination programme put in place by your vet.

Will the vaccination always cover my dog for canine hepatitis?

The first injections administered for infectious canine hepatitis will not cover them permanently. It is important to make sure that your puppy is given booster injections throughout their life.

Your puppy will be required to have another booster at 15 months and then annually moving forward to ensure they are vaccinated against the infection.

Speak to your vet as they will be able to help you choose a vaccination programme best suited to the needs of your puppy, depending on where they’ll be spending time and the activities they’ll be doing.

What to do if I think my puppy is suffering?

If your puppy presents any of the symptoms of infectious canine hepatitis it's important to contact a vet immediately. They will carry out a number of blood tests, antibody tests and immuno-fluorescence scanning to determine whether your puppy is infected and recommend the best course of treatment.

Vaccinating your puppy against infectious canine hepatitis and other conditions is one of the most important preventative measures you can take to ensure the health of your new puppy throughout their life. If you are unsure about this vaccine or have any questions relating to the vaccinations your puppy needs, speak to your vet.

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