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Infectious canine hepatitis

Disease Summaries

Infectious canine hepatitis

Rubarth's disease


Caused by a virus from the Adenoviridae family (DNA viruses that lack an outer envelope), called canine adenovirus type-1 (CAV-1).

It is very resistant to environmental conditions and the action of various disinfectants.



Serious (sometimes fatal) and very contagious infectious disease in puppies that have not been vaccinated.



By direct oronasal contact with the virus, but indirect and iatrogenic transmission is also possible. When a dog is infected, viral shedding is intermittent through all secretions and bodily excretions, namely, through urine. An infected dog can continue to shed the virus for months.



In unvaccinated young animals it can take an uncommon, hyperacute form with a clinical presentation involving systemic bleeding.

In its less severe forms, it may be more difficult to diagnose, since it initially presents as hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) and loss of appetite. Abdominal pain is common due to inflammation of the liver. It can also present as hypertrophy of the lymph nodes, inflammation of the larynx and pharynx, runny nose, mild diarrhoea, listlessness, vomiting and death. If the disease becomes chronic, it can also present with jaundice, weight loss, abdominal distension and even neurological manifestations.  

Some cases present with uveitis or "blue eye disease", which is fairly characteristic, and which manifests about two weeks following infection.



The age, vaccination status and medical history of the animal must be taken into account. There are symptoms that can be quite characteristic in the acute form of the disease, but the definitive diagnosis is made through specific laboratory tests.



There is no specific cure but treatment involves treating symptoms as they appear and is usually based on fluid therapy, antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections and treatment for diarrhoea, vomiting, liver failure or problems with blood clotting.

Prevention is based on vaccination. Most existing vaccines contain canine adenovirus type-2, which protects against infectious canine hepatitis and infectious canine laryngotracheitis.