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Canine Coronavirus

What is Canine Coronavirus?

Canine Coronavirus, named for its crown-like appearance under a microscope, is a highly contagious viral illness affecting dogs globally. Unlike the human novel coronavirus responsible for the 2020 pandemic (COVID-19), Canine Coronavirus cannot be transmitted to humans. However, it spreads easily among dogs.

The disease manifests differently in dogs, often presenting mild or subtle symptoms that can be hard to detect. Despite its typically mild nature, Canine Coronavirus can be fatal, especially under certain circumstances. It is prevalent in kenneled dogs but can also affect seemingly healthy ones.

In the United States, there are two primary types of Canine Coronavirus: enteric and respiratory. Enteric Canine Coronavirus is transmitted through feces and targets the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, leading to symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. On the other hand, respiratory Canine Coronavirus spreads through the air, affecting the lungs and contributing to a broader respiratory disease complex in dogs, characterized by coughing, sneezing, and breathing difficulties.


Symptoms of Canine Coronavirus differ depending on the strain involved. Canine Enteric Coronavirus (CECoV) targets intestinal cells, replicating rapidly and causing destruction, particularly in young, immunocompromised, or stressed dogs, such as those in dog shows or shelters. Symptoms of CECoV may include:

  • Diarrhea (potentially bloody)
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Seizures in severe cases

Canine Respiratory Coronavirus (CRCoV) is part of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD), and even healthy dogs can carry it without showing symptoms. Typically, dogs contract CRCoV alongside other bacteria and viruses like Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Parainfluenza Virus, Canine Adenovirus, Canine Influenza Virus, Canine Herpesvirus, Canine Reovirus, Canine Pneumovirus, Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria, Mycoplasma bacterial species, Streptococcus species, and Zooepidemicus species.

CRCoV is a common cause of sudden upper respiratory disease in dogs, particularly those in stressful or crowded environments. The virus attacks lung lining cells, facilitating the entry of other opportunistic bacteria. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Eye discharge
  • Nasal discharge
  • Gagging or regurgitation after coughing
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced appetite


The causes of Canine Coronavirus stem from its highly contagious nature, enabling rapid transmission among dogs. Canine Enteric Coronavirus is contracted when dogs ingest infected feces, with an incubation period of 1-3 days. Following exposure, dogs, whether showing symptoms or not, can shed the virus in their feces for up to 2 weeks.

Canine Respiratory Coronavirus spreads through:

  • Inhalation of respiratory secretions that are aerosolized
  • Direct contact between infected dogs
  • Contact with contaminated objects such as blankets, bowls, toys, etc., which can easily harbor bacteria or viruses.


To diagnose Canine Coronavirus, veterinarians follow a structured approach. When suspecting Canine Coronavirus in your dog, the vet will conduct a thorough examination, which involves reviewing your dog’s health history and current symptoms. They will inquire about any concerns you have regarding your dog’s health, including behavioral changes and observable symptoms.

Blood Chemistry Test & Complete Blood Count:

Based on the severity of your dog’s symptoms, the veterinarian might suggest a blood chemistry test and a complete blood count. These tests provide a comprehensive overview of your dog’s health status, aiding in determining if your dog requires antibiotics or other treatments.


In some cases, the vet may opt for x-rays of your dog’s abdomen and chest. This procedure helps rule out other diseases that manifest similar symptoms, contributing to a more accurate diagnosis.


When addressing Canine Coronavirus in your dog, the veterinarian’s approach relies on your dog’s health records and present symptoms. Due to the absence of a specific remedy for canine coronavirus, treatment primarily aims to mitigate the severity of your dog’s symptoms.

Dogs diagnosed with both CECoV and CRCoV may not necessitate treatment as many naturally recover. However, depending on symptom severity, some dogs may undergo outpatient care, including:

  • Hydration through fluids
  • Administration of oral anti-nausea medications
  • Provision of oral anti-diarrheal medications
  • Prescribing gastrointestinal prescription foods
  • Reintroducing probiotics to restore gastrointestinal flora
  • Dispensing anti-inflammatories and/or cough medicine for CRCoV-induced coughing

In more critical instances, hospitalization may be required, involving:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids for hydration
  • Application of IV antibiotics and/or anti-nausea medications
  • Provision of nutritional support via feeding tubes or total parenteral nutrition
  • Use of appetite stimulants
  • Application of heat support
  • Administration of oxygen or utilization of a nebulizer for dogs experiencing CRCoV-related symptoms

Living and Management

Recovery and Management of Canine Coronavirus typically see most dogs fully recuperating within a span of two weeks, regardless of whether they’ve been affected by the enteric or respiratory strains. However, dogs requiring hospitalization due to canine coronavirus might need one or more follow-up visits to the veterinarian to evaluate their recovery trajectory.

In general, the prognosis for both enteric and respiratory canine coronavirus strains is favorable, barring severe cases or instances involving young animals. With timely veterinary intervention and supportive measures, most dogs tend to recover swiftly.

Ensuring a clean environment, particularly in shelters or settings with large groups of dogs, is crucial in preventing the spread of canine coronavirus. Common disinfectants such as bleach effectively eradicate the virus. Additionally, it’s essential to isolate symptomatic dogs to hinder the transmission of either strain of canine coronavirus to other canines.


Preventing Canine Coronavirus involves several measures. While there exists a vaccine for canine enteric coronavirus, most veterinarians do not advocate its administration due to its unproven efficacy in preventing the virus. However, vaccines for other types of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) are available and are deemed part of the standard recommended vaccines by the American Animal Hospital Association.

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