Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH)

Causative Agent: This is a viral disease caused by canine adenovirus (CAV-1). CAV-1 is a relatively tough virus that is able to survive most disinfectants. This virus can infect and cause disease in dogs, coyotes, foxes, and bears. Young dogs (up to 1 year old) are most frequently affected.

Clinical Signs: Signs of infection may include listlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, coughing, and abdominal tenderness. More severely affected dogs may manifest bleeding tendencies (spontaneous bruising, bleeding from the nose or mouth, or blood in the stool or urine), distention of the abdomen, disorientation, seizures, coma, or sudden death. One unique sign of infection that may show up at the beginning of the recovery phase is a clouding of the eye that begins peripherally (toward the outside) and progresses centrally. This syndrome is known as "blue eye" and usually resolves on its own.

Disease Transmission: Infections usually occur through direct contact with an infected animal and their respiratory secretions or saliva. Disease transmission can also occur by contact with contaminated objects (food dishes, etc.) and hands. Some disease transmission may also occur through contact with ectoparasites (fleas, mites, ticks, lice, or insects that feed off of the body surface of animals).

Diagnosis: The primary means of making the diagnosis of ICH is through suggestive findings discovered during a physical exam and through laboratory work performed on the sick animal. Confirmation of the diagnosis may be made by further, more time-consuming tests run by special diagnostic laboratories.

Treatment: Therapy is mainly supportive and consists of fluids, with or without certain additives (i.e. sugars, electrolytes, and vitamins); blood transfusions, antibiotics, special enemas, and special diets. Because each case is unique and has different needs, blood work and urine analysis are extremely important in determining the proper therapy for each individual animal.

Prevention: Vaccines against CAV-1 do exist, although they are not currently available in the United States. One major disadvantage of CAV-1 vaccines is their tendency to cause reactions in some dogs, including "blue eye syndrome" (see above under Clinical Signs). A vaccine against CAV-2, a related adenovirus which causes laryngitis and other upper respiratory infections in dogs, is used instead. Studies have shown that the vaccine against CAV-2 also protects dogs against CAV-1 and causes fewer problems when given properly. The vaccination is usually included in the puppy series and boostered on a yearly basis.