NOTE: This article is NOT about COVID-19, the human-spread new coronavirus. Please see the article on COVID-19 for that information.
A canine coronavirus infection (CCV) is a highly contagious intestinal disease that can be found in dogs all around the world. This particular virus is specific to dogs, both wild and domestic. The coronavirus replicates itself inside the small intestine and is limited to the upper two-thirds of the small intestine and local lymph nodes. A CCV infection is generally considered to be a relatively mild disease with sporadic symptoms, or none at all. But if a CCV infection occurs simultaneously with a viral canine parvovirus infection, or an infection caused by other intestinal (enteric) pathogens, the consequences can be much more serious. There have been some deaths reported in vulnerable puppies.
Symptoms and Types
The symptoms of a CCV infection vary. In adult dogs, the majority of infections will be inapparent, with no symptoms to show. Sometimes, a single instance of vomiting and a few days of explosive diarrhea (liquid, yellow-green or orange) may occur. Fever is typically very rare, while anorexia and depression are more common. Occasionally, an infected dog may also experience some mild respiratory problems. Puppies may exhibit protracted diarrhea and dehydration, and are most at risk of developing serious complications with this virus. Severe enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine) in puppies will occasionally result in death.
This intestinal disease is caused by the canine coronavirus, which is closely related to the feline enteric coronavirus (FIP), an intestinal virus that affects cats. The most common source of a CCV infection is exposure to feces from an infected dog. The viral strands can remain in the body and shed into the feces for up to six months. Stress caused by over-intensive training, over-crowding and generally unsanitary conditions increase a dog’s susceptibility to a CCV infection. Additionally, places and events where dogs gather are the most likely locations for the virus to spread.
A CCV infection will usually have some symptoms in common with other bacterial, viral, or protozoic infections, or with general food intoxication or intolerance. Therefore, certain tests may have to be administered to determine the actual cause of the infection. Biochemical analysis and urinalysis will typically show normal physiology, so sometimes specific serologic (serum) tests or antibody titers (measurement of antibody strength) may need to be used.