Herpes virus is a viral disease commonly found in puppies. It affects the reproductive and respiratory systems and is usually fatal to unborn or newborn puppies.
The virus lives in the reproductive and respiratory systems of a dog. It gets transmitted through direct contact between a carrier and a non-carrier.
A pregnant dog must be isolated from other dogs for the last three weeks of pregnancy and the first three weeks after birth.
After a dog becomes infected, the virus may remain dormant in the body for a while. Signs can then flare-up, which can infect other dogs. The virus can also spread to a pregnant dog's fetus and result in abortion, stillbirth, or sudden death of the puppies a few weeks after birth
Signs progress quickly and are usually fatal within 24-48 hours.
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of appetite
- Thick nasal discharge
- Abdominal swelling and pain
- Yellow-green feces
- Excessive crying
- Rash on belly
- Vaginal discharge
- Abortion, stillbirth
- Refusal to nurse
- Wounds on reproductive organs
Puppies that die suddenly should be examined to determine the cause.
Your veterinarian can confirm the diagnosis with:
- Tissue biopsy: (in stillborn puppies or puppies that die suddenly) there will be wounds in the kidney and liver
- Reproductiveorgananalysis(in adults): there will be wounds on the organs
- Lung testing (in adults): to test for congestion
Lesions and sudden death show herpesvirus instead of other diseases with similar signs, like parvovirus or coronavirus.
Most puppies die suddenly, too late for medical help.
In cases where you can get your puppy to the hospital, the doctor will give the following treatment until the virus has run its course:
- Put the puppy in an incubator, and monitor it closely
- Force feed the pet
- Give anti-diarrheal medication
There is no vaccine available in the United States yet. You can take some preventative measures:
- Avoid contact with carriers of this virus
- Isolate a pregnant dog from other dogs for the last three weeks of pregnancy and the first three weeks after birth
- Practice good hygiene with puppies
- Keep the temperature warm for puppies
- Keep a stress-free environment to prevent relapses
The prognosis for an infected puppy less than three weeks old is poor; they will usually die rapidly.
The prognosis for an infected puppy more than six weeks old is better.
Puppies who do survive will usually have life-long damage to their kidney, liver, and brain. They will also be carriers of Herpesvirus for life.
Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM