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Coronavirus Disease - Dog Encyclopedia | Pets.ca

Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus Disease

Short Description
Coronavirus disease, Viral inflammation of the small intestine
Affected Animals
Dogs, cats, humans, cattle, pigs, horses, chickens, rats, and mice. Different members of the coronavirus family have a predilection for specific species; thus, a coronavirus infection in the dog is highly unlikely to be contagious to a person or other animal.

Usually, when a dog contracts coronavirus, the worse case scenario is that the animal will suffer from diarrhea and related symptoms for several days.  Puppies that are infected by the virus, however, can develop severe dehydration from persistent vomiting and diarrhea caused by the inflammation occurring in the small intestine.  These severely affected puppies will often require veterinary attention to provide the supportive care necessary to fight off the infection.

The coronavirus is transmitted when a dog ingests feces from another dog that has the virus.  Because the coronavirus is highly contagious, animals that live in kennels or participate in dog shows are at a high risk for contracting it and should be vaccinated.

There is no specific treatment for coronavirus, but supportive care such as fluid therapy and antibiotics is sometimes needed, especially for young puppies that develop more serious symptoms.  Among adult dogs that get an infection from the coronavirus, the diarrhea will usually resolve on its own, generally within a week or two.  When compounded by other diseases, the diarrhea can take longer to resolve.
Clinical Signs
Clinical signs can vary tremendously, but commonly include vomiting, diarrhea that may contain mucus or blood, depression, anorexia, and occasionally fever.  Puppies can die from severe dehydration and enteritis, which is inflammation of the small intestine.  Typically, adult dogs have less severe or no symptoms.


Canine coronavirus is a highly contagious virus often transmitted in kennels and dog shows.   The virus grows in the animal's small intestine and may cause gastrointestinal problems.  Adult dogs that develop symptoms of an infection usually get diarrhea and related symptoms that pass within a short time period without medical intervention.

Puppies, however, can develop more severe clinical signs and can become severely dehydrated, requiring the administration of intravenous or subcutaneous fluids.  Because of the inflammation of the small intestine caused by the virus, antibiotics are often given to treat bacteria and toxins  that may escape from the intestines into the blood.

Canine coronavirus is passed on when a susceptible dog or puppy ingests feces from a dog that has the virus. It can be prevented by a vaccine. 
Usually, a veterinarian will suspect the coronavirus when a dog living in group housing develops clinical signs of the disease.  To make a positive diagnosis, there are procedures for detecting the virus in fresh feces or intestinal contents using electron microscopy.  Also, serologic testing, which detects the presence of antibodies and antigens, is an option.  However, the results of these tests can be expensive and generally take time to be analyzed by a laboratory.  Thus, they not are performed often.

For dogs that are not severely affected, the prognosis is excellent, although diarrhea can persist for as long as a few weeks.   Young puppies that are very ill may have a guarded or poor prognosis if they do not receive immediate veterinary care.

Dogs get the coronavirus when they ingest the feces of another dog with the infection.

The majority of dogs that are not severely affected recover without any treatment.  Puppies or adults that do develop severe symptoms of infection often need supportive care such as fluids delivered directly into the vein or below the skin.  Antibiotics are used to treat signs of sepsis -- which is bacteria or bacterial toxins found in the blood.


Infected dogs should be kept away from healthy dogs.  Sanitation should be maintained by keeping the environment free of feces and cleaning the area with appropriate disinfectants. A vaccine is beneficial, especially for show dogs and kennel dogs that are at a high risk for contracting the virus.

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