Canine Coronavirus (CCV) is
the second leading viral cause of diarrhea in puppies with
canine Parvovirus being the leader. Unlike Parvovirus, Coronavirus
infections are not generally associated with high death rates.
Canine Coronavirus is not new to the canine population; it
has been known to exist for decades. Most domestic dogs, especially
adults, have measurable Coronavirus antibody titers indicating
that they were exposed to canine Coronavirus at some time
in their life. Its importance as an infectious disease and
killer of dogs has probably been overestimated by vaccine
manufacturers and some veterinary authorities.
Canine Coronavirus is a single stranded RNA type of virus
with a fatty protective coating. Because the virus is covered
in a fatty membrane, it is relatively easily inactivated with
detergent and solvent-type disinfectants. It is spread by
virus shedding in the feces of infected dogs.
What are the symptoms?
The primary symptom associated with canine Coronavirus is
diarrhea. As with most infectious diseases, young puppies
are more affected than adults. Unlike Parvovirus, vomiting
is not common. The diarrhea tends to be less profuse than
that associated with Parvovirus infections. Although canine
Coronavirus is generally thought of as a milder cause of diarrhea
than Parvovirus, there is absolutely no way to differentiate
the two without laboratory testing. Both Parvovirus and Coronavirus
cause the same appearing diarrhea with an identical odor.
The diarrhea associated with Coronavirus usually lasts several
days with low mortality. To complicate the diagnosis, many
puppies with a severe intestinal upset (enteritis) are affected
by both Coronavirus and Parvovirus simultaneously. Mortality
rates in puppies simultaneously infected may approach 90 percent.
What are the risks?
As previously stated, canine Coronavirus has been widespread
among the canine population for many years. Many dogs, especially
adults, are either naturally immune and not susceptible, or
develop a very mild, oftentimes unnoticeable, case of the
disease. Puppies less than twelve weeks of age are at the
greatest risk and some especially weaker ones will die if
exposed and infected. Most puppies, however, will recover
after several days of mild to severe diarrhea.
What is the management?
As with canine Parvovirus, there is no specific treatment
for canine Coronavirus. It is very important to keep the patient,
especially puppies, from developing dehydration. Water must
be force fed or specially prepared fluids can be administered
under the skin (subcutaneously) and/or intravenously to prevent
Vaccines are available to protect puppies and adults of all
ages against canine Coronavirus. In areas where canine Coronavirus
is prevalent, dogs and puppies should remain current on Coronavirus
vaccinations beginning at or about six weeks of age. Sanitation
with commercial disinfectants is highly effective and should
be practiced in breeding, grooming, kennel housing, and hospital
Race Foster, DVM
Marty Smith, DVM
Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.