Infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) is a highly contagious viral disease, which, as the name suggests, attacks predominantly dogs, although the virus is known to cause illness in foxes, wolves and coyotes.

The literature documents that even skunks and bears can be infected. Other carnivores (meat eaters) can become infected without exhibiting signs of the disease. The symptoms of ICH have been recognized in all parts of the world, Guyana included. ICH should not be confused with hepatitis in humans.

The focus of the disease is on the infected animal’s liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs and the walls of the blood vessels.

• Abrupt onset (usually)

• Fever (more than 104°F/40°C)

• Arched back (tucked up belly) due to liver pain

• Movement is associated with expressions of agony.

• Apathy

• Loss of appetite leading quickly to emaciation
• Thirst

• Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes) sometimes

• Conjunctivitis (inflammatory process on the surface of the eyeball); liquid discharge from eyes and nostrils. The animal shies away from light; squints.

• Pin-point, spotted bleeding in the mouth

• Bloody diarrhoea (sometimes)

• Enlarged tonsils (occasionally)

• Vomiting (occasionally); sometimes the infected animal vomits blood.

• Oedema (swelling due to fluid accumulation in the tissues of the head, neck and trunk)
• If the animal is cut, the blood takes longer to clot than usual.
All of these symptoms are not always to be seen. Sometimes the symptoms are mild, and at other times the onset of the disease is forceful, rapid and the animal dies shortly thereafter. Puppies seem to be most susceptible. Some puppies may die suddenly without having exhibited overt symptoms. Adult dogs also succumb to ICH.
Have you noticed how, in many regards, the symptoms of this ICH disease are similar to those of distemper (Pet Corner September 28, 2008)?

ICH is spread via the urine, faeces, and/or saliva; dogs which have recovered from the disease may still shed the virus (usually through the urine) for up to six months. We are dealing here with a hardy virus. It can survive outside the host (dog) for months and is resistant to many household chemicals.

The therapy has to be directed towards those symptoms which appear. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise on the strict therapeutic regime, which should include fluids, antibiotics and metabolic stimulants, and liver support medication.

Vaccination! Please note that some dogs develop a corneal opacity (‘clouding’) after the vaccination (or on recovery from the disease). This is called ‘Blue Eye.’ Not to worry, this condition regresses to normal within a few days. If not, the vet can treat the problem.

Have an enjoyable week with your pet.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.