What is coronavirus disease?

Coronavirus disease is a viral intestinal infection of dogs which is usually of short duration. However, the condition can be unpleasant. The causal agent belongs to the Coronavirus family. Different coronaviruses cause infections in many species of animals and birds. However, humans are not affected by the canine coronavirus.

How is it transmitted?

Infected dogs usually shed the virus in their faeces (and possibly saliva) for one to two weeks, sometimes even longer. The virus is ingested from contaminated food bowls or by direct contact with the infected dog. Crowding and unsanitary conditions favour transmission. The incubation period (from ingestion to clinical signs) is one to five days.

What are the signs of coronavirus disease?

Many infections are subclinical (inapparent) or mild and transient. However, occasional infections and outbreaks are more severe, particularly in young puppies. Mixed infections, for instance with the parvovirus, may intensify the disease. The diarrhoea is typically sudden in onset, accompanied by lethargy and decreased appetite. Faeces are typically loose with very smelly and are often orange tinted. They may contain blood or mucus.

Are there diseases which can be confused with coronavirus disease?

There are many causes of diarrhoea in dogs, all of which may appear similar to coronavirus disease. Severe cases of coronavirus disease can be easily confused with parvovirus infection, and the two conditions may occur together. Be sure to see your veterinarian promptly if your dog has diarrhoea that does not resolve in a few days or is associated with significant lethargy or loss of appetite.

Is there any treatment?

There is no drug that kills the virus. However, as with most viruses, the course of the disease is generally short. Antibiotics are generally used because secondary bacterial infection is common. Withholding food for 24 hours or so and gradually reintroducing it may be sufficient. Dehydration may occur and must be corrected with intravenous fluids. It is advisable to seek veterinary assistance in treating this disease at the outset.

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