Herpesvirus in Dog Pups

By PetMD Editorial on Apr. 26, 2010

Canine Herpesvirus Infection (CHV) in Dogs

This infection is a systemic, usually fatal disease in young pups caused by the canine herpesvirus (CHV). Found worldwide, CHV especially causes high mortality rates in pups (two to three weeks old) due to their immature immune systems and poor temperature regulation. In fact, it rarely affects dogs older than three to four weeks.

Although any breed can be affected, purebred dogs are more prone, as are young pregnant females and their pups. Herpesvirus infections are also a leading cause of fetal death and spontaneous abortion.

Symptoms and Types

The following signs should be taken seriously, as the onset of symptoms is sudden and death can occur just 12 to 36 hours afterward:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • Severe gasping (in terminal animals)
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Soft, odorless stool that is grayish, yellow, or green in color
  • Persistent and distressing crying
  • Eye inflammation 



This infection is caused by the canine herpesvirus (CHV).



You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis -- the results of which are typically within normal ranges. In some dogs, however, a decreased number of platelet cells (which are responsible blood clotting) may be observed. Otherwise, your veterinarian will attempt to isolate the causative virus by conducting cell cultures or frozen tissue examinations.


Typically, treatment is not recommended in pups with this form of herpesvirus infection, as antiviral therapy is ineffective. Instead, preventative measures are often the only recourse. A serum removed from bitches that have recovered from CHV infection, which contain protective antibodies, will be injected into pups before the illness' onset.

Living and Management

Pups that survive from CHV infection may suffer from blindness, deafness, kidney damage, and nervous systems, while the bitches often give birth to future healthy litters. And although there is a CHV vaccine available in Europe for pregnant bitches that are at high risk, the effectiveness of the vaccine has not yet been proven.

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