Infectious Canine Hepatitis

Not too long ago, infectious canine hepatitis was confused with distemper or at least considered to be part of what many veterinarians called the "distemper complex." Today, hepatitis is considered to be a separate disease.

Canine hepatitis is another virus disease. The virus is spread by direct contact with the nasal discharge, saliva or urine of an infected animal. Affecting the liver and usually running a short course of a few days, hepatitis can be fatal if treatment is delayed. The canine hepatitis virus is not the same one that infects human beings.

Hepatitis has distemper-like symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. Listlessness, inflamed tonsils, in-

creased thirst, discharge from the nose, diarrhea and vomiting are all symptoms of hepatitis and distemper. Unlike distemper, the dog usually has a high temperature, above 104°F. There is also abdominal tenderness, blood in the vomit or stool, and inflammation of the inner surface of the eyelids and front part of the eyeballs. An opacity or bluing of the eyes may also be present, although this is usually present after the acute stage of the disease has subsided.

The hepatitis virus gains entry into the dog's gastrointestinal tract when the dog comes into contact with or ingests infected matter or comes into contact with urine or saliva from an infected dog. It has been shown that the hepatitis virus remains in the urine for as long as six or more months after a dog has recovered from the disease. If your dog has hepatitis symptoms, see that he gets prompt veterinary attention.


Your dog can be immunized against canine hepatitis. Most veterinarians give a combination injection of distemper and hepatitis vaccine. The blood test developed by Dr. Gillespie can be used to determine the level of immunity against hepatitis. Consult your veterinarian for hepatitis vaccination.

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