Coronavirus in Dogs

Learn about the canine version of coronavirus

Dog lying on stainless steel exam table.

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Coronavirus, or more specifically canine enteric coronavirus, is a type of infection that refers to a disease of the intestinal tract in a dog. There are different strains of this virus in dogs as well as in people and other animals, but they are not all the same, so knowing more about it and what you can do for your dog can help keep it safe.

What Is Coronavirus in Dogs?

Canine enteric coronavirus (CCoV) is a viral infection that causes diarrhea in a dog. It is different than the canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV), feline coronavirus (FCoV), bovine coronavirus (BCoV or BCV), the coronavirus that infects humans (SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 and formerly called formerly 2019-nCoV) and other coronaviruses infecting other species. All the different types of coronaviruses can make it confusing for pet owners to understand the diseases that these viruses may cause but it is important to remember that not all coronaviruses are the same even if they are referred to simply as a "coronavirus."

Canine enteric coronavirus may be caused by different strains of the coronavirus but they all cause the same symptoms. Enteric coronavirus is also the most commonly seen type of coronavirus in dogs while canine respiratory coronavirus is rare. Enteric coronavirus in dogs primarily causes symptoms affecting the stomach and intestines.

Signs of Coronavirus in Dogs

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden diarrhea

Whenever a dog doesn't feel very well it may become less active or lethargic and not want to eat very much and this is true for dogs with enteric coronavirus as well. Sudden or acute diarrhea alongside vomiting are the key symptoms of dogs with this infection, though. Respiratory symptoms are not seen in dogs with enteric coronavirus, unlike respiratory coronavirus, unless aspiration into the lungs has occurred due to extreme vomiting.

Causes of Coronavirus in Dogs

There are several canine enteric coronavirus (CCoV) strains that can cause gastrointestinal symptoms but dogs contract these viral strains by coming into contact with fecal matter that has the virus in it. Dogs sniff other dog's poop and hind ends and get some of it on its nose and then lick their nose and ingest the virus. Ingestion can also occur if feces are eaten directly by a dog. Sometimes even contaminated food and water bowls are the cause of the infection. Dirty living areas and places where dogs defecate are most likely to contain this virus and the virus can even survive in freezing weather.

Diagnosing Coronavirus in Dogs

Symptoms of enteric coronavirus in dogs are usually mild so it may not be obvious that a dog has this viral infection. If it is suspected, though, a veterinarian will perform a full physical examination and will obtain a sample of your dog's feces. Various tests on the feces will be performed to rule out parasitic infections, bacterial overgrowth or imbalance, and other gastrointestinal diseases. Blood tests and X-rays may also be performed but in order to diagnose coronavirus, a special test called an RT-PCR will be run.

Treatment of Coronavirus in Dogs

There is no specific treatment for enteric coronavirus in dogs but rather symptoms of the disease are simply managed. Probiotics, fiber, fluids to prevent dehydration, and other treatments may be indicated depending on your dog's symptoms. Thankfully, coronavirus is usually not a concerning disease, but on occasion, fatalities have been noted.

How to Prevent Coronavirus in Dogs

The canine enteric coronavirus is highly contagious between dogs but thankfully there are effective vaccines that are regularly administered. Both combination and individual coronavirus vaccines are available and these can be discussed with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is properly protected from this virus.

Is Canine Coronavirus Contagious to People?

While canine enteric coronavirus is very contagious to other dogs, it is not contagious to people. The human coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 and formerly called 2019-nCoV) is a different virus that causes respiratory symptoms in people and there is no scientific evidence that that virus causes problems in dogs or that dogs are carriers of it. However, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does recommend that if you are infected with COVID-19 to avoid or limit contact with your pets until more information is known about this virus.