Canine herpesvirus

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Gross photograph of one kidney, depicting multiple 2-3 mm, discrete, dark red foci apparent from the capsular surface, corresponding to necrosis and hemorrhage
Microscopic identification of intranuclear inclusion bodies can assist in the diagnosis, but inclusions are often rare or absent in canine herpesvirus as compared to herpesviral infections of other domestic species.

Canine herpesvirus (CHV-1) is a severe, often fatal, viral infection of puppies worldwide.

Up to 70% of some high-risk dog populations have been infected with and are latent carriers of CHV[1].

CHV has also been associated with upper respiratory infection (kennel cough)[2], rhinitis, juvenile conjunctivitis[3][4], ulcerative keratitis[5], papulovesicular vaginitis and posthitis in adult dogs[6].

During pregnancy, CHV-1 can lead to embryonic resorption, abortion, and stillbirth[7].

Rare cases of vestibular disease[8] and disseminated infections[9] have also been reported in older dogs.

CHV is an enveloped DNA virus that is sensitive to lipid solvents and most disinfectants. CHV is relatively unstable outside the host. Transmission usually occurs by contact between susceptible puppies and the infected oral, nasal, or vaginal secretions of their dam or oral or nasal secretions of dogs allowed to commingle with puppies during the first 3 wk of life. In utero transmission may also occur.

Infection of newborn susceptible puppies results in replication of CHV in the surface cells of the nasal mucosa, pharynx, and tonsils. If the pups become hypothermic, viremia and invasion of visceral organs occur.

CHV is a leading cause of sudden death in pups at the 1 - 4 week range. Abortions, stillbirths, and infertility are also noted in pregnant bitches. Older dogs may present with coughing associated with upper respiratory infections, as well as diarrhea and vomiting. Deaths have also been reported in adult dogs[10].

The use of immunosuppressive agents such as prednisolone[11], cyclophosphamide and cyclosporin may lead to recrudescence of infection[12].

The characteristic gross lesions consist of disseminated focal necrosis and hemorrhages, primarily in the lungs.

Diagnosis is based on presenting clinical signs, ELISA[13] and PCR identification of the herpesvirus[14].

A differential diagnosis would include infectious canine hepatitis and Neospora spp.

No vaccine is available for this disease, although short-term (3 month immunity) is afforded with a vaccine available in some European countries.


  1. Evermann JF et al (2011) Canine reproductive, respiratory, and ocular diseases due to canine herpesvirus. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 41(6):1097-1120
  2. Kawakami K et al (2010) Nosocomial outbreak of serious canine infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) caused by canine herpesvirus infection. J Clin Microbiol 48(4):1176-1181
  3. Ledbetter EC et al (2009) Outbreak of ocular disease associated with naturally-acquired canine herpesvirus-1 infection in a closed domestic dog colony. Vet Ophthalmol 12(4):242-247
  4. Ledbetter EC et al (2009) Virologic survey of dogs with naturally acquired idiopathic conjunctivitis. J Am Vet Med Assoc 235(8):954-959
  5. Ledbetter EC et al (2012) Metaherpetic corneal disease in a dog associated with partial limbal stem cell deficiency and neurotrophic keratitis. Vet Ophthalmol Sep 7
  6. Merck Veterinary Manual
  7. Verstegen J et al (2008) Canine and feline pregnancy loss due to viral and non-infectious causes: a review. Theriogenology 70(3):304-319
  8. Parzefall B et al (2011) Naturally-occurring canine herpesvirus-1 infection of the vestibular labyrinth and ganglion of dogs. Vet J 189(1):100-102
  9. Malone EK et al (2010) Disseminated canine herpesvirus-1 infection in an immunocompromised adult dog. J Vet Intern Med 24(4):965-968
  10. Gadsden BJ et al (2012) Fatal Canid herpesvirus 1 infection in an adult dog. J Vet Diagn Invest 24(3):604-607
  11. Ledbetter EC et al (2010) The effect of topical ocular corticosteroid administration in dogs with experimentally induced latent canine herpesvirus-1 infection. Exp Eye Res 90(6):711-717
  12. Mundy Pet al (2012) Effects of cyclophosphamide myelosuppression in adult dogs with latent canine herpesvirus-1 infection. Vet Microbiol 159(1-2):230-235
  13. Babaei H et al (2010) Serological evidence of canine herpesvirus-1 in dogs of Kerman city, south-east of Iran. Transbound Emerg Dis 57(5):348-351
  14. Decaro N et al (2010) Development and validation of a real-time PCR assay for specific and sensitive detection of canid herpesvirus 1. J Virol Methods 169(1):176-180