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Canine Adenovirus type-1 (CAV-1) or Canine Hepatitis

What is canine adenovirus type-1?

Canine adenovirus type 1 (also known as infectious CAV-1) causes infectious canine hepatitis, a serious disease of the liver and upper body.

What are the symptoms of canine adenovirus type-1?

Initial symptoms are a sore throat and coughing. As it progresses through the blood stream the following symptoms may appear:-

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite and weight loss
  • Short fever
  • Discharge from eyes and nose
  • Milky blue appearance to eyes

Signs that the virus has gone on to infect the liver and kidney, and possibly causing organ failure are:-

  • Sickness
  • Diarrhoea (diarrhea)
  • Increased thirst
  • Enlarged liver
  • Abdominal pains
  • Seizures
  • Bleeding mouth
  • Bruising

What are the causes of infectious canine hepatitis?

Contact with the adenovirus type-1, also known as infectious CAV-1 adenovirus, via the feaces, urine or saliva of an infected dog. The virus is found worldwide.

What are the risk factors of canine adenovirus type-1?

Four to eight days after initial exposure to the virus it spreads from the tonsils, into the bloodstream then to the liver where it will replicate and spread, damaging the liver. During this stage the virus can be spread to other dogs via saliva and faeces (feces).

A healthy dog should be able to fight off the virus, however, he will continue to shed the virus in his urine for 6-9 months. If your pet is unable to fight off the infection he will develop chronic hepatitis.  One of the most obvious signs of the chronic condition is inflammation of the eye known as “hepatitis blue eye”.

If the virus goes untreated it can lead to liver failure, which may result in death.

A dog is most at risk contracting the virus if he is not vaccinated and congregates in areas where there are other dogs such as at rescue centres, breeding kennels, boarding kennels, parks and groomers.


Your vet will want to hear some background history of your dog’s health, details of any symptoms and about any possible exposure to the virus through contact with other dogs. In addition to a thorough physical examination, blood and urine samples will be taken for testing and analysis.  If there is any abdominal swelling, the vet will want conduct an ultrasound to check for damage to the liver. A liver biopsy may also be necessary.

What treatment can be canine adenovirus?

Unless the virus is caught at the very early stages, treatment is usually given as an inpatient.  Replacing fluids is likely to be necessary with medication and supplements to help replace essential vitamins and minerals. Fresh blood products may need to be given if your dog is shown to be suffering from DIC (Disseminated intravascular coagulation), a serious blood clotting disorder. Antibiotics can also be given to fight off any secondary infection. If your dog suffers with “hepatitis blue eye” he is likely to be sensitive to bright light so this should be avoided. If he appears to be suffering from eye pain resulting from this condition, relief can be given with medication.

Once your dog is well enough to come home, he will need plenty of rest, away from any other pets and a special diet that is easy to digest. Your vet will want to book your dog in for follow up appointments in order to monitor his recovery, take further blood and urine tests, and check for any signs of DIC or kidney failure.

How to prevent canine adenovirus type-1

No particular breed is susceptible to the virus but it is more commonly seen in dogs under 1 year old. A highly effective vaccination is available and is strongly advised.  It can be given to a puppy at 6-8 weeks old, followed by 2 boosters given at 3-4 weeks apart, with an additional booster at 1 year.

The virus can survive for several months, so to avoid transmission of the virus to any other dog; contaminated surfaces must be cleaned with a bleach solution (one part bleach, 32 parts water).