Canine enteric coronavirus (CCoV) is a type of contagious disease that infects the intestinal tract of a dog. There are multiple strains of coronavirus in dogs (as well as in people and other animals) that have different symptoms. Unlike COVID-19 in humans, strains of coronavirus that affect the respiratory system are rare in canines. Dogs typically contract this disease from coming into contact with contaminated fecal matter. While there is no specific treatment recommended for dogs with coronavirus, owners can help their pets by managing symptoms until the illness passes. By knowing common signs and understanding the causes, you can help keep your dog safe from canine coronavirus.
Is Canine Coronavirus Contagious to People?
While CCoV is very contagious to other dogs, it is not contagious to people. The coronavirus strain that causes respiratory symptoms in humans (SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19, formerly called 2019-nCoV) is a different virus from canine enteric coronavirus. More than 3,500 pets—including dogs, cats, and horses from all 50 U.S. states and South Korea—tested negative for COVID-19 during a 2020 study by IDEXX, a major veterinary laboratory.
However, there is still much to be learned about COVID-19 and how it affects dogs and other pets. If you are infected with this virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding or limiting contact with your pets until more information is known about this virus.
COVID-19 and Animals
Dogs and other animals do not appear to be widely affected by SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). There are, however, some documented cases of animals testing positive for COVID-19. It appears that the virus was spread to these animals by infected humans, but there is currently no evidence that animals can transmit COVID-19 to humans. The following are cases of the virus in animals reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
- Multiple tigers and lions in New York, April 2020
- Two domestic cats in New York, April 2020
- A dog in New York, June 2020
- A domestic cat in Minnesota, June 2020
- Two dogs in Hong Kong, March 2020
- A cat in Belgium, March 2020
- Two mink farms in The Netherlands, April 2020
- Two domestic cats in France, May 2020
- A domestic cat in Spain, May 2020
- A domestic cat in Germany, May 2020
- A dog and a cat in The Netherlands, May 2020
- A cat in Russia, May 2020
What Is Canine Coronavirus?
Canine enteric coronavirus (CCoV) is a viral infection that causes diarrhea and sometimes vomiting, lethargy, or loss of appetite in dogs. It is different than canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV), feline coronavirus (FCoV), bovine coronavirus (BCoV or BCV), the common respiratory coronavirus that infects humans (SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 and formerly called formerly 2019-nCoV), and other coronaviruses infecting other species.
The many 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."
Symptoms of Coronavirus in Dogs
Canine enteric coronavirus may be caused by different strains of coronavirus that result in the same symptoms. Enteric coronavirus is the most commonly seen symptomatic type of coronavirus in dogs, while canine respiratory coronavirus with any serious illness is rare. Enteric coronavirus in dogs primarily causes symptoms affecting the stomach and intestines.
Whenever a dog doesn't feel very well, it may become less active or lethargic and lose its appetite. This is true for dogs with enteric coronavirus as well. Sudden or acute diarrhea and vomiting are the key symptoms of dogs with this infection. 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 Canine Coronavirus
There are several canine enteric coronavirus (CCoV) strains that can cause gastrointestinal symptoms. While it's possible for your dog to contract this virus from its living conditions or food and water bowls, CCoV is more likely to spread between dogs through fecal matter. The following are causes of this condition in dogs:
- Fecal matter: Dogs typically contract these viral strains by coming into contact with fecal matter that is contaminated by the virus. It's normal for dogs to sniff the hind ends or feces of another dog—it's a common way for them to recognize each other's scent. However, it's also possible for your dog to directly contact the hind end or feces of another, which leads to the particles getting on its nose and becoming ingested when it licks its nose.
- Eating feces: Ingestion can also occur if your dog eats feces. This behavior may seem unusual and even alarming to humans, but it's not uncommon in the canine world. Your dog may eat feces because of instinct, hunger, stress, or even illness, so it's always best to talk to your veterinarian about possible causes to rule out any underlying medical or behavioral problems. When your dog consumes contaminated feces, it can contract canine coronavirus.
- Living conditions: 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. For these reasons, it's especially important for owners to keep their dog's living area clean and regularly wash food and water bowls.
Diagnosing Coronavirus in Dogs
Symptoms of enteric coronavirus in dogs are usually mild, so it may not be obvious if your dog has this viral infection. If you notice the signs and suspect that your dog may have CCoV, take your dog to the veterinarian to have a full physical examination performed along with your vet taking a sample of the 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.
There are no antiviral medications for CCoV, but treatment is managed through supportive care. Dog owners and veterinarians can manage the symptoms to help the dog feel comfortable until the disease runs its course. Probiotics, fiber, fluids to prevent dehydration, and other treatments may be recommended depending on your dog's symptoms.
Prognosis for Dogs With Coronavirus
Thankfully, canine enteric coronavirus is usually not a concerning disease, but on occasion, fatalities have been noted. In most cases, your dog can recover fully with fluids provided by your veterinarian and the management of electrolytes in its system. After recovery, your dog should be monitored for returning symptoms to ensure the virus has been cleared from its body.
How to Prevent Canine Coronavirus
The canine enteric coronavirus is highly contagious among other dogs (especially those living in the same household). Thankfully, owners can take a few preventative steps to help their dogs stay healthy:
There are vaccines for dogs that can help prevent this condition. These vaccines are regularly administered at routine care appointments with your veterinarian. 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.
Monitoring Your Dog
It's also important for owners to monitor their dogs' interactions and behavior. Prevent your dog from eating feces by cleaning your yard and discouraging this behavior as soon as it's observed. While it's not always possible to prevent dogs from sniffing feces or another dog's hind end, it can be helpful for owners to limit contact with other dogs when their medical background is unknown.
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