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Leptospirosis in Dogs

Your dog may love swimming in lakes and romping in the woods, but a dangerous disease lurks in these areas – one that can sicken you as well as your dog. Leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria spread through soil, water, and the urine of infected animals. If not caught and treated early it can be deadly. Fortunately, vaccination can protect dogs from leptospirosis. Preventing your dog from drinking from puddles of standing water or from swimming in lakes, streams, or other bodies of water that may be contaminated also reduces his risk of exposure.


Leptospirosis is a potentially serious disease caused by the bacterium Leptospira interrogans. It affects dogs but can also infect a wide variety of domestic and wild animals, as well as humans.

The organism is usually spread through infected urine, but exposure to contaminated water or soil, reproductive secretions, and even consumption of infected tissues can also transmit the infection. Introduction of the organism through skin wounds can also occur. Carriers of the organism include opossums, rodents, and dogs.

The bacteria can survive for long periods of time in water and are frequently found in swamps, streams, lakes, and standing water. The bacteria also survive well in mud and moist soil, and localized outbreaks can occur after flooding.

Once a dog is infected, the leptospirosis organisms rapidly advance through the bloodstream leading to fever, joint pain, and general malaise. Because the organism settles in the kidneys and actually reproduces there, inflammation and even kidney failure may develop. Liver failure is another common consequence of infection.

Symptoms and Identification

Clinical signs typically develop 2 to 12 days after exposure to the bacterium. In many dogs, infection may remainsubclinical (without clinical signs) or chronic. In acute, or more serious cases, dogs may experience potentially fatal kidney or liver disease.

Signs include:

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Inappetence (appetite loss)
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle and/or joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody urine
  • Excessive thirst
  • Jaundice
  • Excessive bleeding

Leptospirosis can be diagnosed through blood tests; however, tests may need to be performed multiple times to confirm a diagnosis.

Affected Breeds

Dogs of any breed are susceptible to infection with leptospirosis. Dogs used for hunting or other outdoor sporting activities may be at increased risk due to exposure to potentially contaminated areas.


Treatment typically consists of a regimen of antibiotics. Complications such as liver or kidney damage or spontaneous bleeding are treated with fluid therapy and other treatments that are appropriate for the individual patient. Hospitalization is required in many cases.


Exposure to leptospirosis can be reduced by preventing your dog from drinking from puddles of standing water or from swimming in lakes, streams, or other bodies of water that may be contaminated. Unfortunately, for dogs that are accustomed to an active outdoor lifestyle that includes swimming, these precautions may not be practical.

Prevention of leptospirosis is complicated by the fact that there are more than 200 different serovars (subtypes) of the Leptospira interrogans bacterium that can cause illness in animals and people. The available vaccines only protect against a handful of the most common subtypes that infect dogs, which can limit the protective value of the vaccines. Nevertheless, the available vaccines are effective and safe when used as directed, and many veterinarians recommend the vaccination for dogs at risk for exposure. Annual revaccination is required.

The leptospirosis vaccine is not required for all dogs. Your veterinarian may recommend this vaccine based on your dog’s lifestyle and exposure risk.

Because humans can also become infected with leptospirosis, dogs suspected of having the disease should be handled with care. Adhere to good hygiene techniques, such as frequent handwashing and avoiding contact with potentially contaminated urine.


Coronavirus in Dogs

As the name implies, coronavirus is caused by a virus. A dog can get it when he comes in contact with the feces of an infected dog. Common symptoms include fever, vomiting, and loss of appetite. It typically runs its course and then the patient is fine. In extreme cases, a veterinarian will give a dog fluids and antibiotics to manage the clinical signs and help prevent secondary infections.


Coronavirus infection is a highly contagious infection of dogs that primarily attacks the intestinal tract. The disease is spread from dog to dog through contact with feces. After coronavirus has been transmitted to a dog, the incubation (development) period of the disease can be as short as one to four days.

Symptoms and Identification

Coronavirus infections are typically mild and self-limiting (resolving without treatment), and infected dogs may have several days of diarrhea that resolves without treatment. Other signs may include:

  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting

Coronavirus infection is typically diagnosed based on clinical signs, although definitive laboratory testing is available. Because the clinical signs can be similar to those of more serious diseases (such as intestinal parasitism, parvovirus infection, and canine distemper virus), your veterinarian may recommend testing to rule out other illnesses.

Affected Breeds

Coronavirus is an equal opportunity offender. All dog breeds are equally susceptible.


Treatment is typically limited to supportive care, such as fluid therapy, rest, and antibiotics to help prevent secondary infections. If vomiting or diarrhea is severe, medications may be prescribed to manage these symptoms in particular.


Coronavirus is spread through contact with fecal material from infected dogs, so separating sick dogs from healthy ones will help reduce disease spread. Coronavirus can be killed by many types of household disinfectants (including diluted bleach solution), so cleaning contaminated areas and bedding can also help reduce the spread of this infection.

A vaccine is available to prevent canine coronavirus infection. Coronavirus vaccine is not a core vaccine, but it may sometimes be included in combination vaccines for other, more serious diseases, such as infections with canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, and canine adenovirus type 2.

Canine Adenovirus Type 2 (CAV-2)

Kennel cough is a contagious disease that is the scourge of pet hotels and grooming salons and other places where pets congregate. Along with Bordetella and parainfluenza, canine adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2) is one of the reasons dogs get kennel cough. Coughing and gagging accompanied by a fever, runny nose, or red, watery eyes are the most common symptoms. And though the disease typically runs its course without longterm effects, it can lead to a more serious infection so you should speak with your vet if you think your dog has been infected.


Canine adenovirus type 2 causes respiratory disease in dogs and is one of the infectious agents commonly associated with canine infectious tracheobronchitis, which is also known as “kennel cough”. Canine infectious tracheobronchitis is usually spread through coughing. Dogs that are around other dogs, such as at boarding facilities and dog parks, are at increased risk for infection.

After CAV-2 has been transmitted to a dog, the incubation (development) period of the disease is approximately 3 to 10 days. The infection is typically self-limiting (resolving without treatment); however, in some cases, it can lead to pneumonia.

Signs and Identification

Common signs of CAV-2 infection include:

  • A dry, hacking cough
  • Retching and gagging
  • Coughing up a white, foamy discharge
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge

In some cases, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the inner eyelids and tissues around the eyes)
Infectious canine tracheobronchitis is usually diagnosed based on clinical signs and a history of possible exposure (such as a recent trip to a groomer or boarder). Specific testing is rarely undertaken to rule in or out this particular virus.

Affected Breeds

All breeds of dogs are equally susceptible.


Treatment of CAV-2 infection is typically limited to supportive care, which may consists of fluids, rest, and antibiotics to treat secondary infections that may develop. Isolation from other dogs is mandatory. Dogs with kennel cough should wear a harness rather than a neck collar when taken for walks during recovery. Collars can place pressure on the trachea (the large airway that runs from the back of the throat into the lungs), which can contribute to coughing.


A vaccine is available to prevent CAV-2 infection. However, it is important to realize that the vaccine does not completely prevent dogs from contracting CAV-2. Rather, the vaccine limits the severity of infection so that vaccinated dogs typically experience a milder form of the disease.

The CAV-2 vaccine also protects against infection with canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1). CAV-1 causes infectious canine hepatitis –– a dangerous and potentially fatal infection.

Because CAV-2 is common and the CAV-2 vaccine cross-protects against CAV-1, the CAV-2 vaccine is considered a core vaccine by organized veterinary medicine, meaning that all dogs should receive this vaccine. The CAV-2 vaccine is typically given in a combination vaccine that also protects against other serious diseases, such as canine distemper and canine parvovirus infection. Your veterinarian will recommend a vaccine schedule for your pet.

Other preventive measures include:

  • Keeping puppies away from other dogs until the puppy vaccination series is complete.
  • Avoid exposing dogs to unvaccinated and sick animals.
  • Keeping dogs out of facilities where animals have been known to be infected with kennel cough.


Ticks can cause a host of illnesses, including ehrlichiosis, which affects dogs and people alike. A bite from an infected tick can mean tiredness, fever, and swollen lymph nodes upon infection. Symptoms may vanish but reappear weeks or years later. An infection that has progressed can cause bleeding, anemia, seizures, and autoimmune disease. Fortunately, antibiotics can treat ehrlichiosis. There is no vaccine against the disease; avoiding ticks is the best bet.


Ehrlichiosis is a disease caused by bacteria of the Ehrlichia family. Several species of the Ehrlichia bacteria are known to exist, some of which can infect humans. Ehrlichiosis (whether it occurs in dogs or humans) is transmitted through the bite of a tick, most typically the brown dog tick.

After the Ehrlichia organism enters the body through a tick bite, it affects the cells in the dog’s bloodstream. White blood cells (needed to fight infection), red blood cells (needed for carrying oxygen throughout the body), and platelets (needed to help form blood clots) can all be affected.

It’s important to note that though both humans and dogs can be infected, neither dog-dog or dog-human transmission is known to exist. A tick itself is always the culprit.

Symptoms and Identification

Ehrlichiosis causes three distinct clinical phases of illness: acute, subclinical, and chronic.

In the acute phase, clinical signs occur about one to three weeks after an infected tick bites a dog.Symptoms associated with this phase can include lethargy (tiredness), fever, appetite loss, and enlarged lymph nodes. In some cases, clinical signs can resolve without treatment. However, if the infection is not treated, it progresses to the subclinical phase.

In the subclinical phase, the dog may appear completely normal because clinical signs are not observed. This phase may last many months or even years, but eventually the bacteria can reactivate and start to cause illness again.

In the chronic phase, the dog may again show vague signs such as fever, lethargy, and appetite loss.However, as the Ehrlichia organism affects the blood cells and bone marrow, clinical signs may include bleeding problems and anemia (an inadequate number of red blood cells). At this point, the bacteria may also affect the brain, causing seizures and poor coordination.

Other clinical signs associated with ehrlichiosis can include joint pain and swelling as well as autoimmune disease in which the dog produces antibodies that damage its own cells. If ehrlichiosis causes severe complications, death can result.

Clinical signs of ehrlichiosis can resemble those of other tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Additionally, dogs can be infected with ehrlichiosis and other tick-borne diseases at the same time, which is why veterinarians tend to recommend screening for other tick-borne diseases during the diagnostic testing for ehrlichiosis.

In fact, any time a patient’s medical history includes tick exposure and suspicious clinical signs, tick-borne disease testing is strongly recommended. A CBC (complete blood cell count) may also show changes in white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets that may increase suspicion. However, not all dogs develop these changes, so a CBC can have normal results even if a dog is infected with Ehrilichia.

Many veterinarians diagnose ehrlichiosis using a SNAP test either when they suspect the disease or as a simple annual screening. SNAP tests are a group of quick, convenient, blood tests that can be performed at your veterinarian’s office. The available SNAP tests include:

  • The SNAP Heartworm RT Test screens for heartworm infection.
  • The SNAP 3Dx Test simultaneously screens for heartworm disease, Lyme disease, and ehrlichiosis.
  • The SNAP 4Dx Test can diagnose four diseases at the same time: heartworm disease, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis (which is another disease that is transmitted to dogs through a tick bite).

In some cases, veterinarians will recommend additional testing to follow up a SNAP test result or to look for other evidence of illness related to heartworm disease or one of the tick-borne infections. This testing may involve sending additional blood samples to a laboratory for further analysis or performing other diagnostic tests to gain more information about a patient’s condition.

Affected Breeds

No breed predilection has been established for ehrlichiosis infection in dogs.


The main treatment for ehrlichiosis is antibiotic therapy. Doxycycline is commonly used and has been proven an effective treatment for the disease.If ehrlichiosis has caused other complications, these may need to be treated separately, using different medications or other therapies to target secondary issues caused by Ehrlichia’s presence.

In some cases, such as when severe bleeding occurs, intensive care and the ministrations of an internal medicine specialist and/or critical care specialist may be required. Blood transfusions and other intensive supportive therapies may be necessary for these patients.


There is currently no vaccine against ehrlichiosis. Appropriate tick-control methods combined with routine periodic testing is the best way to help protect those dogs inevitably exposed to ticks.

Limiting a dog’s exposure to wooded areas or other places where ticks may hide can help reduce the risk of infection.Frequently checking a dog for ticks and safely removing them is an important daily routine, particularly during tick season.

Canine Influenza

Canine influenza (CIV) doesn’t affect people (or cats), but infected dogs experience symptoms such as coughing, respiratory infection, and fever. The available vaccine won’t necessarily prevent a dog from getting the flu, but it is helpful in reducing the severity of the illness should a dog become infected.


This new, highly transmissible virus was first detected in 2004 among a group of racing greyhounds in Florida. Investigators eventually learned that canine influenza developed when an equine influenza virus adapted to infect dogs. This represented a rare event, because the new virus was canine specific (only transmissible to other dogs).

CIV has caused localized disease outbreaks around the United States and has been reported in more than 30 states plus the District of Columbia. It’s spread between dogs through direct contact (coughing, sneezing, facial licking) or indirect contact (contaminated bowls, leashes, collars, or the hands or clothing of people who handle ill dogs).

The bad news: Virtually all dogs exposed to CIV become infected; however, 20 percent of dogs don’t show signs but can still spread the virus.

The good news: CIV does not infect people, and, so far, there’s no documentation that cats have become infected by exposure to infected dogs.

Symptoms and Identification

Signs of respiratory infection (coughing, nasal discharge) are most commonly associated with CIV. However, some dogs become severely ill and develop a high fever, difficulty breathing, or pneumonia.

Infected dogs usually develop signs of illness within two to four days of having been exposed. Typical locations for exposure include kennels, hospitals, grooming salons, or dog parks.

Unfortunately, canine influenza can’t be diagnosed by signs alone because the signs are similar to those of other respiratory illnesses in dogs (kennel cough syndrome, for example). For dogs that have been sick for a short time, veterinarians can swab the nose or throat and submit samples to a diagnostic laboratory for analysis. Specific blood testing can also be helpful in making a diagnosis.

Affected Breeds

This infectious disease knows no breed limits. If exposed, all dogs are at risk of infection.


Treatment mostly involves supportive care, which may include fluid therapy, antibiotics (to treat any secondary bacterial infections), and cough medications. Seriously ill dogs may require hospitalization, but most affected dogs need only be quarantined at home while potentially contagious (about two weeks).


Any time dogs congregate with other dogs it increases their risk of exposure to CIV so that owners should be on the lookout for any news of a local outbreak. In this event, dogs should not be allowed to have casual contact with unknown dogs until the outbreak has been reported controlled.

Ask kennel owners, groomers, show event managers, and your veterinarian what their facilities’ policies are regarding disinfection, quarantine, and disease prevention. As with human influenza, frequent hand washing and disinfection may help prevent the spread of CIV.

In May 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture approved the first canine influenza vaccine. It may not prevent infection, but vaccinated dogs usually don’t become as sick as unvaccinated dogs and do recover more quickly. The vaccine is useful for dogs that may be exposed to high-risk environments, such as kennels, boarding facilities, dog parks, or dog shows. Ask your veterinarian whether your dog should be vaccinated against canine influenza.

Lyme Disease in Dogs

Ticks cause a host of illnesses, including Lyme disease, which affects dogs and people alike. A bite from an infected tick can mean tiredness, fever, joint pain, and loss of appetite. Antibiotics generally provide relief from Lyme disease, but relapses can occur. Spot-on tick-control products can kill or repel ticks that carry Lyme disease, as can some tick collars. There is a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs, but it’s not always part of a dog’s routine vaccination protocol.


Lyme disease is one of a number of frustratingly common tick-borne diseases that are regarded by both veterinarians and human physicians as stubborn, insidious, and just plain problematic in a number of ways.

An infection caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium, Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick and can affect many species, including dogs and humans.

Ticks of the Ixodes species (called deer ticks) are known to transmit Lyme disease when they attach to a host and feed. Because the tick must be attached for at least 50 hours to transmit Lyme disease, frequent inspection for ticks (and quick removal) can reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Lyme disease is more common in certain areas of the United States, including the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest.

Symptoms and Identification

Clinical signs may not appear for several months after a dog is infected with Lyme disease. In fact, many dogs fail to display any obvious clinical signs at all. When signs of infection are noted, they may include the following:

  • Lethargy (manifested as tiredness or exercise intolerance)
  • Fever
  • Painful joints
  • Loss of appetite

Signs may seem to resolve on their own only to reappear later. Lyme disease has also been linked to long-term complications involving the joints, kidneys, heart, and nervous system.
Lyme disease is usually diagnosed based on a medical history that includes the possibility of tick exposure, suspicious clinical signs, and results of diagnostic testing.

Several tests can identify the Borrelia burgdorferi organism in blood or tissues. In addition, a test (called a quantitative C6 antibody test or QC6 antibody test) can measure the level of antibodies to help veterinarians determine whether treatment is recommended. However, many veterinarians test for Lyme disease using an in-hospital SNAP test. SNAP tests are a group of quick, convenient, blood tests that can be performed at your veterinarian’s office. There are various SNAP tests for different purposes:

  • SNAP Heartworm RT Test: screens for heartworm infection
  • SNAP 3Dx Test: simultaneously screens for heartworm disease, Lyme disease, and ehrlichiosis (another tick-borne disease that can affect dogs)
  • SNAP 4Dx Test: simultaneously screens for heartworm disease, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis (also a tick-borne disease that can cause illness in dogs)

SNAP testing is very accurate and is a good way to identify dogs that may be infected with one or more of these diseases. SNAP testing is also very convenient because it uses a very small amount of blood and takes only a few minutes to perform. However, sending blood to an outside laboratory for testing can be every bit as reliable as an in-hospital SNAP test.

In some cases, veterinarians may recommend additional testing to follow up a test result or look for other evidence of illness related to heartworm disease or one of the tick-borne infections. Testing may involve sending additional blood samples to a laboratory for further analysis or performing other diagnostic tests to obtain more information about a dog’s condition.

Affected Breeds

All breeds of dogs are equally susceptible to this infectious disease, though dogs used for hunting or other outdoor sporting activities are at higher risk for exposure to ticks.


Treatment of Lyme disease generally consists of administration of antibiotics and (if necessary) other medications to temporarily help control joint pain and other clinical signs. Some dogs show dramatic improvement after only a few days of receiving antibiotics, but most veterinarians now recommend a 28- to 30-day course of treatment. Relapses are not uncommon, so pet owners are advised to monitor their dogs carefully for signs of illness.


Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease pose a risk to dogs in many areas of the country. Because clinical signs are not always apparent, periodic testing is a good way to identify dogs that have been infected. Even dogs that receive year-round tick control products and don’t spend a lot of time outside are at risk for exposure to tick-borne diseases. Testing helps identify dogs that need treatment for one of these infections or an adjustment in the type of tick control being used.

Tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis (among others) may or may not be prevalent in your area. However, travel habits of owners and their dogs, and changing patterns of tick migration may drive veterinarians to recommend testing for tick-borne diseases.

Several vaccines are available to help prevent disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease organism. An initial vaccination is followed by a booster vaccine two to four weeks later (in accordance with label recommendations) and annual boosters, as long as the risk for disease exposure remains.

The Lyme vaccine is not necessarily recommended for all dogs. Ask your veterinarian about the risk of Lyme disease where you live and whether the Lyme vaccine is recommended for your dog.

There are currently no vaccines to protect dogs from other tick-borne diseases, such as ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Appropriate tick-control methods combined with periodic testing may be the best ways to help protect dogs from these diseases. Being “tick savvy” can also help protect dogs from Lyme disease exposure. Here are some tips:

  • Check dogs (and humans) frequently for ticks. They should be removed promptly.
  • Use a reliable method of tick control (several spot-on products kill and repel ticks).
  • If possible, avoid tall grass or wooded areas where ticks are likely to hide.
  • If owners routinely take dogs camping or walking in wooded areas, they should apprise their veterinarians of this possible means of exposure.


Once an animal contracts the rabies virus, it cannot be cured. A bite from a wild animal is typically how a pet gets the virus –– and how that pet could then transmit it to a person. Early symptoms of infection include fever and aggression. Later signs include paralysis, seizures and death. Luckily, vaccination is available to prevent this disease.


Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system. All warm-blooded animals –– including wild animals, dogs, cats, and humans –– are susceptible. Though the disease is not common, it remains prevalent in wildlife populations — primarily among raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks — that may have contact with domestic animals.

The virus can have an incubation period lasting from days to months. It’s usually transmitted through contact with the saliva of an infected animal. An animal’s saliva becomes infective once the virus has traveled through the animal’s nervous system from the initial bite site to the brain and, ultimately, to the salivary glands.

Pets and people usually become infected through a bite wound. Once the virus enters the salivary glands, the animal can pass the infection to other animals or humans through saliva. Once clinical signs appear, rabies is generally fatal, which is why any pet that bites a human and has an unknown or out-of-date rabies vaccination status may be subject to quarantine or euthanasia, depending on state laws.

Symptoms and Identification

Clinical signs can be vague and difficult to identify. Signs can progress through several stages and not all infected animals show evidence of all stages.

  • Early signs: Fever, acting nervous or agitated, hiding
  • Later signs: Aggression, increased agitation, erratic behavior
  • End stage: Muscle weakness and paralysis, coma, death

Rabid animals can show unusual agitation or aggression or appear “drunk” or unable to walk. Seizures and drooling may also occur. Drooling may result from paralysis of the throat muscles, preventing swallowing. Once signs appear, death usually occurs within ten days.
Rabies is diagnosed in animals based on clinical signs and postmortem (after death) laboratory testing of brain tissue. Local public health facilities are typically charged with making these diagnoses in conjunction with veterinarians.

Affected Breeds

All dogs and cats appear equally susceptible to the rabies virus.


There is no effective treatment in animals.


Because of the potentially serious human health implications, rabies vaccination of dogs is required by law in virtually all states. Many states also require cats to be vaccinated. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the disease in animals and, in doing so, to safeguard human health.

The rabies vaccination schedule may differ depending on the state. Some states require an initial vaccination at 12 to 16 weeks of age, a second vaccine at 1 year of age, and subsequent revaccinations every 3 years. Some states require annual revaccination.

Other preventive measures include:

  • Keeping pets away from wildlife.
  • Ensuring that all other dogs or cats that pets have contact with are vaccinated.
  • Minimizing contact with stray animals (do not feed stray animals with an unknown vaccination status or allow them to remain near your home and pets).

Canine Parvovirus (Parvo)

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, in the case of canine parvovirus, it’s worth, well, everything, as there is no cure. Dogs catch canine parvovirus, commonly called “parvo”, from infected dogs or feces, and left untreated it means almost certain death. Signs of parvo are easily confused with those of simple gastrointestinal distress and include tiredness, vomiting, and diarrhea. Once a dog is infected by the virus, it must run its course, and treatment is limited to supportive care — hospitalization, IV fluids, anti-vomiting and -diarrhea medicines, and antibiotics to prevent other infections. With the right ongoing treatment, dogs can survive but without it, the mortality rate can exceed 90 percent.


Parvo is a deadly disease caused by the canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2) virus. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract and immune system of puppies and dogs. It can also attack the heart of very young puppies.

CPV-2 is highly contagious. It’s spread through direct contact with infected dogs or infected feces. It’s easily carried on hands, food dishes, leashes, shoes, etc. The virus itself is a hardy one. It’s very stable in the environment and can survive for more than a year under the right conditions (away from sunlight and appropriate disinfectants).

Though up to 85 to 90 percent of treated dogs can survive, the disease requires extensive supportive patient care and can be expensive to treat. In untreated dogs, the mortality rate can exceed 90 percent.

Signs and Identification

Signs of infection with CPV-2 include:

  • Lethargy (tiredness)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea (often bloody)

Unfortunately, these signs may be confused (at the outset of the infection, especially) with simple gastroenteritis, often leading owners to delay treatment until dogs are devastatingly dehydrated. In the meantime, other dogs in the household may have become infected.
The severity of parvovirus infection varies widely. In many cases, especially among very young puppies, death can occur in two to three days.

In some especially severe cases, an intestinal obstruction can occur as a result of increased intestinal motility during the disease process. This kind of obstruction, called intussusception, occurs when the intestine “telescopes in” on itself. This is life threatening in itself.

Veterinarians make their diagnoses based on history, signs of disease, physical examination, and laboratory tests performed on blood and feces.

Affected Breeds

Sadly, parvovirus knows no breed limits. Dogs of all breeds are susceptible.


Treatment is limited to supportive care: providing fluids, administering medications to reduce vomiting and diarrhea, and administering antibiotics to prevent secondary infections. In cases of intussusception, surgery is required.


Because of the prevalence of the disease and its severity, the CPV-2 vaccine is considered a core (essential) vaccine by organized veterinary medicine, meaning that all dogs should be protected from this disease. Vaccination safely and effectively prevents disease associated with CPV-2 infection. The CPV-2 vaccine is typically given in a combination vaccine that also protects against other serious diseases, such as canine distemper and canine adenovirus-2.

In general, all puppies should receive a minimum of three doses between 6 and 16 weeks of age, followed by a booster one year after the last dose. Thereafter, booster vaccinations are administered every one to three years.

Infected dogs should be kept isolated from other dogs until they have recovered and are no longer shedding (spreading) virus. The environment, bowls, etc. should be disinfected with a dilute bleach solution, which kills the virus.

All puppies should be kept away from other dogs, dog parks, groomers, and pet stores until the puppy vaccination series has been completed. Socialization with other dogs should be limited to healthy dogs whose vaccination status is well known.

Canine Distemper

Prevention is the key with this disease. Distemper in dogs is caused by a virus which is spread through most body fluids including saliva, urine, and blood. It is highly contagious and often deadly. At first, the disease mimics kennel cough, with goopy eyes, fever, runny nose, coughing, and tiredness the most common symptoms. Later signs of infection include seizures and paralysis. That’s why getting the vaccination against the virus is critical.


Canine distemper is a serious contagious disease caused by canine distemper virus (CDV), which attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurologic systems of dogs. It’s a highly transmissible virus that can also infect ferrets and many wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, minks, weasels, foxes, and coyotes.

Shockingly, the death rate for canine distemper virus can reach 50 percent, and animals that do recover are often left with permanent neurologic disabilities. There is no effective treatment, but virus-associated disease is largely preventable through vaccination.

Though the disease is less common than it was before the first effective vaccines became available in the 1960s, it is still present in wildlife populations that might have contact with domestic animals.

The incubation period of CDV is typically one to two weeks but can be up to five weeks. CDV is shed (spread) through all body secretions. It can also be carried on the hands and feet. Warm, dry, or sunny conditions will kill CDV, but it is resistant to cold and can survive in near-freezing, shady environments.

Signs and Identification

The first sign in infected dogs typically is a watery or whitish/greenish eye discharge. Additional initial signs include:

  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy (tiredness)
  • Reduced appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

In later stages, the disease affects the brain and nerves, and dogs may show the following signs:

  • Twitching, or “chewing gum” seizures, in which repetitive twitching of the dog’s jaw appears as if the dog is chewing gum
  • Seizures
  • Agitated behavior
  • Paralysis

The disease will vary in its symptoms and severity from patient to patient. Not all dogs will suffer neurologic signs and/or life-limiting neurologic impairments.
Diagnosis of CDV infection is difficult because there are few reliable tests for the disease and, in the initial stages, clinical signs can mimic those of other conditions, such as kennel cough. Diagnosis is frequently based on medical history and clinical signs.

Affected Breeds Sadly, canine distemper virus knows no breed limits. Biologically speaking, all breeds are susceptible.


Treatment is limited to supportive care: providing fluids, administering medications to reduce vomiting and diarrhea, administering antibiotics to prevent subsequent infections, such as pneumonia, and administering medication to control seizures. Severely affected animals may be euthanized to relieve their suffering.


This is by far the most important section for all dog owners to keep in mind.

Because of the importance of canine distemper and its severity, the CDV vaccine is considered a core vaccine by organized veterinary medicine, meaning that all dogs should be protected from this disease. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent illness and death associated with CDV infection.

The CDV vaccine is typically given in a combination vaccine that also protects against other serious diseases, such as canine parvovirus and canine adenovirus-2 infections.

Though vaccine schedules may vary, in general, all puppies should receive at least three doses of CDV vaccine between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks, followed by a one-year booster one year after the last dose. Thereafter, booster vaccinations are typically recommended every one to three years.

It is important to remember that a vaccination, even a routine one like a CDV vaccine, is a medical procedure not without its risks, however, the risk of CDV is considered far greater than that of a vaccine reaction. Nonetheless, owners should ask their veterinarians how to monitor their dogs for signs of a reaction. Vaccine reactions are rare, but knowing the associated signs is important.

Other forms of prevention include the following:

  • Keep puppies away from other dogs until the puppy vaccination series is complete (16 weeks).
  • Avoid unvaccinated and sick animals.
  • Keep your pet away from wildlife and stray animals.

Kennel Cough

Bordetella bronchiseptica is an easily contracted bacteria that causes a hacking cough or, occasionally, a snotty nose. Any pet can get the disease, and except in severe cases, a round of antibiotics is usually all that’s needed to treat it. In fact, many cases are mild and self-limiting enough that they require no treatment whatsoever. Vaccination can protect your dog from illness associated with Bordetella.


Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium that is commonly associated with respiratory disease in dogs. It can also infect cats, rabbits, and, in rare cases, humans. It is one of the more common bacterial causes of canine infectious tracheobronchitis — also known as kennel cough.

Bordetella bronchiseptica is one of several organisms included on a short list of bacteria and viruses responsible for this kennel cough syndrome. Bordetella is highly contagious, easily transmitted through the air or direct contact, and resistant to destruction in the environment.

In healthy adult dogs, Bordetella usually causes no more than a mild, self-limiting illness. In puppies or in dogs with other underlying health issues, however, it can cause severe illness (such as pneumonia) or even death in rare cases.

Signs of kennel cough typically develop two to 14 days after exposure. In mild cases, signs may resolve within 10 to 14 days. More severe cases, particularly when a subsequent infection has occurred, can require a much longer recovery.

Symptoms and Identification

A persistent honking, hacking, and/or gagging cough is typical of Bordetella infection. Many owners describe the cough as “vomiting” or believe something is stuck in their dogs’ throats. In these cases, this presentation is merely an uncomfortable symptom of an inflamed trachea.

Fever and lethargy (tiredness) may also occur. Sometimes, a whitish or greenish nasal discharge is also observed, but in other cases, clinical signs may be absent or so mild that they go unnoticed.

Although sophisticated testing is available, diagnosis is generally based on a history of exposure to infected dogs or a recent visit to a kennel, combined with the presence of signs of illness.

Affected Breeds

All breeds of dogs are equally susceptible to Bordetella.


In mild infections, treatment is generally supportive because the disease can resolve on its own unless a secondary (subsequent) infection occurs. Precautionary antibiotics to prevent secondary infection may be prescribed. In severe cases, treatment may consist of administration of antibiotics, cough suppressants, and inhalant medications to help patients breathe more easily. When possible, a harness, rather than a collar, is recommended for leash walking of ill dogs. A traditional collar puts pressure on already sensitive and irritated tracheal tissues and can induce coughing episodes.


“Kennel cough” might well be a misnomer. That’s because dogs don’t necessarily contract the disease just from being kenneled. Rather, they become ill because kennels can be stressful environments and stress can suppress the immune system, increasing susceptibility to disease. Typical kennel conditions (such as group housing) can make it easier to spread infectious organisms, such as Bordetella bronchiseptica.

Vaccination can protect your dog from illness associated with Bordetella, particularly if your dog frequents kennels, groomers, dog shows, or dog sporting events. To reduce the risk of disease transmission, many boarding facilities and grooming salons require dogs to be vaccinated against kennel cough before entry.

Although the B. bronchiseptica vaccination is not mandatory for every dog, it may be recommended in dogs whose lifestyle increases their risk of exposure to this organism. An intranasal vaccine is available in addition to the traditional injectable vaccine. Your veterinarian can tell you whether vaccination is recommended for your pet and, if so, which type is best for your pet.