What is Adenovirus in Dogs?

When it comes to the health of dogs, pet owners are always looking to be knowledgeable on the many diseases that can affect a canine’s health. One disease that is important to understand and learn about is Adenovirus for dogs.

There are two types of Adenovirus in dogs that can be detrimental to your pup’s health. Both types will be discussed below so that pet owners can understand exactly what the strains are, how they work, and what it might mean for the overall health of their canine.

There are several strains of Adenovirus, but only two types that are fairly common. Both of these strains spread rapidly, but the resulting diseases vary greatly. The first is referred to as canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1) and the second is known as canine adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2). Unfortunately, both strains of Adenovirus can bring all kinds of havoc on a canine’s bill of health.

Type 1

CAV-1 is known for causing infectious canine hepatitis (ICH). It is the more severe strain out of the two, as it can have symptoms that cause severe liver failure in dogs. Most signs for this disease include a canine fever, pain in the canine’s abdomen, anorexia, excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, and an increased heart rate. When CAV-1 leads to ICH there can be varying degrees of severity, including death. The liver is highly affected, which can lead to excessive bleeding.

To prevent ICH from developing, veterinarians often recommend that pet owners opt for a vaccination against CAV-2, which concurrently provides immunity for CAV-1. Vaccines against CAV-1 are commonly combined with the DHPP shot which includes prevention against canine distemper, parvovirus, and dog influenza vaccines.

Type 2

CAV-2 is also commonly associated with the Hepatitis virus in canines. It is one of the leading causes of infectious tracheobronchitis, more commonly referred to as canine cough or kennel cough in dogs. Canine cough results when multiple pathogens are combined. Most of the time, the illness can be resolved on its own and rarely turns into a serious problem.

How Does the Adenovirus Spread?

Both types of Adenoviruses are spread through dog-to-dog interactions. What is important to note is that these types of interactions do not have to take place face-to-face. The virus is spread through secretions, including contaminated fecal matter, urine, and saliva. If a canine has discharge around his nose or eyes, and that discharge is left on the surface of something, another dog can pick up the disease. Once a dog leaves his mark somewhere outside, another dog can easily contract it if he smells, eats, or breathes in any of this matter. Ultimately, the virus is transmitted by direct contact with any infected materials.

For these reasons, the most high-risk areas where Adenovirus is contracted include parks, beaches, sidewalks, grassy areas, trees, shelters, rescue centers, kennels, pet stores, daycares, and dog parks. If a pet owner has multiple dogs it is quite possible for the disease to spread between the dogs within the same household. Thankfully, it is not possible for the virus to be passed from dog to human.

Younger dogs are at the highest risk for contracting the Adenovirus as they have a lower immune system than dogs in middle to old age. A dog can contract the Adenovirus after just 2 to 5 days of coming into contact with the affected area. However, these symptoms will sometimes not present themselves for up to two weeks. In older dogs, the symptoms of the infection may go completely unnoticed. They can sometimes even be resolved without medical intervention. It is also possible from some canines to spread the virus without manifesting any symptoms at all, which can be a especially worrisome if the owner is unaware.

Prevention Options

If a dog is coming from a shelter, rescue center, large breeding kennel, or a pet store, it is highly recommended that they see a veterinarian as soon as possible for a vaccination. Regular vaccinations can be very successful at reducing the risks. During the dog’s puppy stage, the vaccine will only be effective for a few weeks at a time. However, as the dog gets older and builds up a stronger immunity, he will be able to withstand longer periods of time between booster shots.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends vaccinating all dogs every three years, despite their backgrounds of coming from a breeder, pound, or kennel. If a dog frequently comes into contact with other canines, these booster shots will be especially important for prevention.

Unvaccinated dogs of all ages are at risk for Adenovirus. If the dog is young and unvaccinated, the disease can take it’s victim in as little as two hours after the initial signs have surfaced. It can often be so sudden that it will come as a complete surprise to the dog owner. This is why it is so important to know the signs of the disease. As soon as any irregular symptoms are present, you must take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

What are the signs?

If a canine is infected by the Adenovirus, different signs and symptoms will present themselves based on the particular strain.

CAV-1 is the strain known for causing hepatitis, which means the symptoms will appear similar to that of hepatitis itself. The most common sign that a dog has been affected by CAV-1 is a fever that continually rises and falls. Depending on how long the fever persists, your dog may experience a drop in white blood cells.

Other symptoms may include:

  •       Abdominal pain
  •       Diarrhea
  •       Vomiting

In CAV-2, which can cause more respiratory issues, symptoms may include:

Some common signs that dog is affected by this virus includes decreased appetite, depression, and sometimes a fever. The pet owner may also notice eye discharge on the dog, or possibly kennel cough. If the dog is avoiding laying on his stomach or jumps back when his abdominal is touched, he may be experiencing pain in that area.

If you as the pet owner notices any of these signs, contact the veterinarian as soon as possible so you can schedule an appointment.

Diagnosis of Adenovirus

Once the pet owner has arrived to the veterinarian’s office for the appointment, they will need to fully disclose the health history of their dog. As the owner, try to keep record of all your dog’s symptoms so they can make a proper diagnosis.

If the symptoms are similar to those of canine distemper or parvovirus, the disease can often be misdiagnosed. Therefore, both blood and urine tests will need to be ordered to further explain which disease is present.

Typically, if the dog is experiencing a significant decrease in his white blood cell count, his symptoms will appear worse. Once the disease has gotten to this level, the changes of liver failure are at an all-time high.

Adenovirus Treatment Options

It is known that most viral infections have no specific course of treatment and the Adenovirus is no different. The most that can be done for a canine who contracts this disease is to help monitor his symptoms and help him to be as comfortable as possible. Some veterinarian’s will prescribe antibiotics to help eliminate the development of a canine bacterial infection from a weakened immune system, other veterinarians do not believe that antibiotics help. This conversation will need to be a personal discussion and decision to be made by the pet owner.

Essentially, the canine’s immune system needs time to respond appropriately to the virus. In severe cases, the veterinarian will recommend that the dog have intravenous fluids to help keep him hydrated and bring up his electrolyte levels. In hopes of increasing the canine’s chances of survival, maintaining fluids and healthy blood levels will be of the upmost importance to the veterinarian. In some cases, the medical professional may administer medication to reduce severe symptoms.

Recovery from Adenovirus

With the right medical care the canine should be able to survive the Adenovirus. Once he is fully recovered, he will be immune for the disease for the rest of his life.

There may be resulting issues, such as lesions and tissue damage on the interior of the organs. Typically, this only occurs in canine’s who have survived the most severe cases of the disease.The cornea around his eyes may be altered after surviving Adenovirus as well, resulting in a cloudy or blue appearance. This can cause sensitivity to bright lights, so it is recommended to get a pair of sunglasses for the dog when he is outside or on a long walk.

Sometimes canines will suffer from other sharp eye pains that are caused by the eye lesions. If the pet owner notices something to this effect, it is best to let the veterinarian know so he can make the appropriate recommendations.

One tip is that if the affected dog is not yet fully potty-trained, be sure to keep the cleanliness of the home in great condition. Even once the dog has recovered, he can still pass the virus through his urine for up to nine months. If he were to urinate on any rugs, shoes, or in his crate, it is possible for another dog to come into contact with the virus.

If a potential pet owner is thinking of adopting a dog, they should take the necessary precautions to keep this animal as healthy and happy as possible. Routine health check-ups, maintaining a healthy diet, and making smart decisions about where the puppy’s environment can have a major impact on the overall health for the canine. By taking these precautions, one can rest assured knowing they have done everything they can to keep their four-legged companion healthy.


  1. “Canine Adenovirus Type 2.” Merck Animal Health USA, www.merck-animal-health-usa.com/dp/3.
  2. “Adenovirus 1 in Dogs.” PetMD, www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/infectious-parasitic/c_dg_canine_hepatitis.
  3. “Canine Adenovirus Type 2 (CAV-2).” Vetstreet, Nov. 2011, www.vetstreet.com/care/canine-adenovirus-type-2-cav-2.

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