Coronavirus in Dogs

Trixie-a rescued kennel dog

Coronavirus is a viral infection of the digestive tract found usually in puppies, but also in adult dogs. It is common in unvaccinated dogs boarded in kennels. It is not typically a fatal virus.

Signs & Symptoms of Coronavirus
  • Very foul smelling, watery, yellow/orange diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
These symptoms are sometimes worsened due to environmental stress or concurrent infections. Vomiting and fever are not usually common symptoms of coronavirus, but are often seen in a similar disease called parvovirus. Dogs infected with coronavirus are often infected with parvovirus as well. Coronavirus is not typically fatal.

Causes of Coronavirus
Coronavirus is spread through direct contact with infected oral and fecal secretions.

Diagnosis of Coronavirus
Diagnosis begins with a complete history and a physical exam. Your veterinarian will be most likely to do the following:

CBC/Chemistry Panel - These blood tests will evaluate various internal organ functions, including the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, metabolism, and electrolyte balance. The CBC is a measure of the amount and different kinds of red and white blood cells that are present in the body. This will indicate the severity and presence of coronavirus infection in your dog.

Fecal Antigen Test - This test will rule out the presence of the virus known as parvovirus, which has similar symptoms to, and is often present along with, the coronavirus. A fecal sample will be mixed with a reagent specific for the virus and then introduced to a SNAP ELISA test. This test will indicate positive (usually within 10 minutes) if the virus is present in the dog’s body. Keep in mind that false positives may occur due to recent exposure to the parvovirus vaccine.

Fecal Floatation - This test is used to rule out the presence of parasite eggs in your dog’s stool, which may also cause diarrhea. It involves taking a small fecal sample from your dog using a lubricated fecal loop. The feces are then put in a small container with a solution that will allow most of the fecal matter to sink, and the parasite eggs to float. A slide is then made of the floating material and examined under a microscope for parasite eggs.

Radiographs - This may be done to rule out an intestinal obstruction, which may also cause diarrhea and lethargy.

Treatment for Coronavirus
Coronavirus is associated with severe dehydration, which can be treated with fluids. Medication may be administered to control vomitting or diarrhea.

Infected dogs may suffer a recurrence of symptoms three to four weeks after recovery.

Prevention of Coronavirus
  • Regular vaccination of your dog starting at around 6 weeks of age. 
  • Regular sanitation of kennels and boarding facilities may help control the spread of coronavirus.

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