Canine coronavirus is a highly contagious disease in dogs. This disease occurs in two forms: canine enteric/intestinal coronavirus (CCoV) and canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) form. These two viruses are distinct from one another, but together, they belong to the Coronaviridae family. It’s important to know that canine coronavirus is not the same as COVID-19, which is a highly contagious disease that affects the respiratory system in humans, and it’s caused by SARS-Cov-2. In this article, we will outline symptoms, treatment, and prevention of both forms of canine coronavirus.
What Is a Canine Coronavirus?
Canine coronavirus is usually referred to as CCoV, a form of coronavirus that affects the digestive system of a dog. This form of virus targets the intestinal villi (small, fingerlike bodies in the intestinal mucosa) and replicates within it. Because of this, digestive symptoms occur, which we will discuss in more detail in the section “Corona Symptoms in Dogs“. The infection can last up to two weeks and some infected dogs can be virus carriers for up to six months.
CRCoV stands for the canine respiratory coronavirus, and as its name suggests, it attacks the respiratory system in dogs. This virus, together with adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, and bacteria Bordetella Bronchiseptica, can cause CIRD (canine infectious respiratory disease). CIRD is also known as “kennel cough“. This is a very common disease in crowded areas such as kennels, shelters, dog hotels, and sometimes even in veterinary hospitals if the hygiene levels are low and unsatisfactory.
Both forms of canine coronavirus in non-professional terms belong to one group (or in biological terms genus/genera), while the SARS-CoV 2 (COVID-19) belongs to the other group of coronaviruses.1Coronavirus. Wikipedia. Retrieved 19 December 2020. Humans are not susceptible to canine coronavirus.
Coronavirus Symptoms in Dogs
In canine coronavirus (CCoV), pathological (extreme) changes happen in the digestive tract of a dog, because this form of coronavirus in dogs attacks villi in the intestinal mucosa. Some of the dogs can overcome the infection without showing any clinical signs, or sometimes only mild diarrhea and mild loss of appetite can appear.
In other cases, this disease can manifest with more serious symptoms, such as sudden, strong, and profuse diarrhea with loss of appetite and signs of lethargy.
Dogs infected with canine coronavirus are calm; they are not interested in food and the surrounding area. Their body temperature is high and skin turgor (elasticity) can be reduced. Also, mouth mucosa is dry due to dehydration, and changes in blood pressure might be present. Note: Dogs may reject water even if they are dehydrated.
Puppies are more susceptible to this disease, and diarrhea as a symptom is more present in them than in older dogs. Feces in dogs infected with this form of coronavirus can be orange in color, with the presence of blood and mucus.
Sometimes, this viral infection can be mixed with the parvovirus, in which case symptoms are more severe and the chances of a fatal outcome are higher.
It’s important that your veterinarian distinguishes the disease early. If the diarrhea is stronger and prolonged, there is a big chance that the dog actually has parvovirus. It’s important to contact your veterinarian, so he can perform tests that are helpful in confirming or ruling out the disease.2Coronavirus disease in dogs. VCA hospitals. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
On the other hand, the symptoms in dogs infected with canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) are different. The main symptoms of canine respiratory coronavirus are the following:
- Dry cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Nasal and mouth discharge
- Increased body temperature
- Loss of appetite
This form of the disease is also common in crowded places with dogs. Besides the respiratory tract, studies have shown that canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) in some dogs was also present in mesenteric lymph nodes, spleen, and the intestines.3Erles, K., & Brownlie, J. (2008). Canine respiratory coronavirus: an emerging pathogen in the canine infectious respiratory disease complex. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Small animal practice, 38(4), 815–viii. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cvsm.2008.02.008
Dogs with more risk of getting both types of canine coronavirus are:
- Sheltered dogs
- Dogs who regularly visit grooming studios, parks, and dog hotels
- Dogs who have contact with unknown or stray dogs
- Dogs in kennels4Canine Coronavirus. American Veterinary Medical Association. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
You should avoid every risky area, unsanitary grooming studios, dog hotels, and unnecessary contact to minimize the chance of the occurrence not only from canine coronavirus but also from other contagious and sometimes even more dangerous diseases.
Canine Coronavirus Diagnosis
In the matter of diagnosis, veterinarians usually diagnose the enteric or intestinal form of canine coronavirus (CCoV) based on clinical signs, but they can’t be 100% sure, because there are a lot of diseases that affect the digestive tract and have diarrhea as the main symptom of the disease.
The useful thing that veterinarians can do is to rule out parvovirus infection, and the easiest diagnostic test to do this is the parvovirus snap test. The thing that differentiates canine coronavirus (CCoV) from parvovirus is that diarrhea in parvovirus is more serious and lasts longer, and feces are darker and sometimes bloody as opposed to coronavirus where the feces have a light orange color. Also in coronavirus, blood in feces is not an unusual occurrence.
More specific diagnostics can be performed with a PCR test and an ELISA test. PCR tests cost around $100 – $200.
The diagnosis of the other strain (canine respiratory coronavirus or CRCoV) is based on the same principles as the previous one.
Canine Coronavirus Treatment
When it comes to the treatment of canine coronavirus, there is no specific therapy. The important thing is to note that antibiotics are useless in the treatment of infections caused by a virus, but they are helpful in the prevention of secondary bacterial infections, which is a very important thing in the treatment.
Dogs with coronavirus are faced with dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, so it’s obligatory that your veterinarian give fluids to your dog through an intravenous pathway.
Diet change is required during this disease, so the veterinarian will prescribe certain medicinal food for dogs for digestive tract problems. This type of food contains prebiotic fibers, vitamin B, electrolytes, and other contents that are beneficial for the recovery of the digestive tract.
At home, you can cook rice, and after it’s cooled, you can have your dog drink the rice water. This water is slimy and it can benefit the digestive tract; it creates a protective layer and helps to form the stool. This will alleviate the symptoms, but not cure the disease.
Canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) treatment is very similar. There is not much use of antibiotics except for the prevention of secondary bacterial infections. Dogs infected with this form of canine coronavirus should be monitored because severe complications may occur. One of these complications is severe pneumonia caused by a variety of bacteria, and it can easily lead to sepsis and hypoxemia (lack of oxygen), because the lungs cannot function normally.5Erles, K., & Brownlie, J. (2008). Canine respiratory coronavirus: an emerging pathogen in the canine infectious respiratory disease complex. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Small animal practice, 38(4), 815–viii. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cvsm.2008.02.008
Canine Coronavirus Vaccine
For the prevention of the enteric or intestinal form of coronavirus (CCoV), veterinarians give inactivated vaccines to dogs, but this vaccine is not safe for all dogs. Your veterinarian will examine the health condition of your dog to see if he can apply the vaccine, because a dog has to be healthy in order for the vaccine to be applied.
There are also combined vaccines against parainfluenza, parvovirus, adenovirus, and coronavirus. The veterinarians apply the vaccine subcutaneously.
For the respiratory form of canine coronavirus (CRCoV), there is still no vaccine available to this day. The vaccine for canine coronavirus (CCoV) can’t provide protection against canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) because of the lack of similarities in spike proteins, which are major immunogenic proteins of coronavirus.6Erles, K., & Brownlie, J. (2008). Canine respiratory coronavirus: an emerging pathogen in the canine infectious respiratory disease complex. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Small animal practice, 38(4), 815–viii. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cvsm.2008.02.008
It should be noted that the canine coronavirus (CCoV) vaccine cannot prevent COVID-19.
How Is Canine Coronavirus Transmitted?
Canine coronavirus is a common occurrence in crowded areas, as already mentioned. This happens because dogs are in close contact and usually share the same living space, bowls for food and water, and other similar items.
Coronavirus is transmitted through feces and through mouth and nasal discharge, which means that other dogs get the virus through the oral pathway by coming into contact with contaminated discharge or excrement (feces).7Canine respiratory coronavirus. American Veterinary Medical Association. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
This is why it’s important to hold a high level of hygiene in places where large numbers of dogs reside, to minimize the occurrence of any contagious disease. As a responsible owner, you should keep your dog away from unknown dogs and stray dogs. You should also avoid unnecessary contact with such dogs yourself, as you could potentially transmit the disease to your dog.
Canine coronavirus can occur in dogs in two forms: enteric or intestinal (CCoV) and respiratory (CRCoV) form. Bear in mind that this disease is not the same as COVID-19. Both forms of canine coronavirus are highly contagious, and the dogs who often visit unsanitary places or live in crowded spaces such as shelters and kennels are at higher risk of getting of any of these two forms of the disease.
Canine enteric coronavirus (CCoV) attacks the digestive tract, and the symptoms of the disease are diarrhea, vomiting, increased body temperature, lethargy, loss of appetite, and dehydration. Symptoms of the respiratory form of canine coronavirus (CRCoV) are dry cough, nasal and mouth discharge, increased body temperature, lethargy, loss of appetite, and dehydration. Due to similar symptoms, this type of canine coronavirus can be easily mistaken for parvovirus.
Intestinal or enteric form of canine coronavirus (CCoV) is transmitted by feces and by nasal and mouth discharge, while the canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) is transmitted by nasal and mouth discharge.
The diagnosis can be formed based on the clinical signs with the help of good anamnesis. PCR and ELISA tests are used in the diagnostics.
There are no special drugs to treat these diseases. Because of dehydration, intravenous fluid therapy is obligatory. Veterinarians also prescribe antibiotics. Although ineffective when it comes to viruses, antibiotics are used in this case to prevent the onset of secondary bacterial infections. In the case of intestinal canine coronavirus (CCoV), a veterinarian can prescribe your dog a certain diet that includes medicinal food for gastrointestinal problems. Rice water, after the rice is cooked, can be beneficial for solving diarrhea, because it protects the gastrointestinal mucosa and helps in the forming of the stool.
Inactivated vaccines are used in the prevention of intestinal canine coronavirus (CCoV), as well as combined vaccines against parvovirus, parainfluenza, adenovirus, and coronavirus. For canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV), there’s still no vaccine. It’s important to emphasize that the canine coronavirus (CCoV) vaccine is ineffective against COVID-19.