The raging coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is speedily spreading around the world, with rising human death toll currently standing at 1,384. Little is known about the contagious virus, although some experts believe it has come from animals, leading many to fear for the lives of their pets.
Can dogs catch the coronavirus?
The canine coronavirus disease can infect dogs, with puppies in particular adversely affected.
The untreatable canine coronavirus is different to the human version and does not affect people.
Fortunately coronavirus is normally short-lived, but may cause considerable discomfort for a few days in infected dogs.
The cause is a virus of the Coronaviridae family, which gets its name from its resemblance to a coronet, or a small crown made of ornaments fixed on a metal ring.
How is canine coronavirus transmitted?
Most cases of the dog form of coronavirus are contracted by contact with infected faecal matter.
Dogs can also become infected by eating from contaminated food bowls or direct contact with infected dogs.
Close contact and unsanitary conditions can also lead to coronavirus transmission.
The incubation period of canine coronavirus from ingestion to clinical signs is up to four days, while the illness can last up to ten days.
Secondary infections by bacteria, parasites and other viruses may develop and prolong illness and recovery.
Dogs may be carriers of the disease for up to six months after infection of the virus.
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What are the signs of canine coronavirus?
Most coronavirus infections are subclinical, meaning not severe enough to present observable symptoms, and produce few clinical signs in dogs.
However, infections can occasionally trigger more severe symptoms, especially in puppies.
The most typical symptom of canine coronavirus is diarrhoea, usually sudden in onset.
This is usually followed by a period of torpor and decrease in appetite.
Stools are loose, with a particularly unpleasant odour and may contain blood or mucus.
If a young puppy has a mixed infection, for instance both coronavirus and parvovirus, expect the illness to be more severe.
Can other diseases be confused with canine coronavirus?
Dogs can have diarrhoea for numerous reasons.
Severe cases of the dog form of coronavirus can be easily confused with parvovirus and they may occur at the same time.
Dog owners should always book an appointment with their vet if their pet has diarrhoea lasting longer than 24 hours.
This is particularly the case if this period is associated with lack of energy or loss of appetite.
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