INFECTIOUS CANINE HEPATITIS
by Brittany Carames
Description: The word “hepatitis” is a medical term describing any inflammatory process of the liver. Inflammation leads to a loss of function and, over time, loss of liver tissue from necrosis (death of tissue) and fibrosis/cirrhosis (scarring/shrinkage).
Causes & Transmission: This virus affects the dog by contact with the oral or nasal surfaces. Following viral reproduction in the tonsils and lymph nodes, it spreads to all parts of the body. The virus preferentially infects cells of the liver. During early stages of infection, the virus is shed in urine, feces, blood, oral and nasal secretions.
Clinical Signs: Incubation period is typically 4-7 days. Dogs with mild illness may be slightly depressed and run a low grade fever with complete recovery after a few days. Dogs who continue to run a fever and do not resolve the infection within this time period, will go on to show other symptoms such as enlarged lymph nodes and tonsils, abdominal tenderness, diarrhea and sometimes coughing. Widespread jaundiced skin and hemorrhage can develop as well.
Diagnostic Testing: Two separate blood samples taken on two different days show a rise in antibody level to ICH virus. A diagnosis might also be made based on vaccine history, clinical signs and laboratory findings.
Treatment: Supportive care which includes attention to nutrition, fluid intake and control of any secondary infections.
Can Humans Get It?: There is some evidence that ICH can infect humans but this still remains to be studied further.