Canis ISSN: 2398-2942

Canine herpesvirus disease

Synonym(s): CHV

Contributor(s): Bryn Tennant, Autumn P Davidson


  • Cause: canine herpesvirus-1.
  • Signs:
    • In adult: mild infection of the respiratory and genital tracts.
    • In neonates: severe, generalized, usually fatal infection: part of 'fading puppy' syndrome.
  • Diagnosis: usually post-mortem in neonate.
  • Up to 80% of dogs have serum antibodies to CHV.
  • Prevention is via good husbandry and hygiene in breeding kennels.
  • Treatment: unrewarding, anecdotal.
  • Prognosis: poor for neonates, good for adults.



  • Canine herpesvirus-1 (CHV-1) Canine herpesvirus, family Herpesviridae.
  • Reported to exist in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, England and Germany.

Predisposing factors

  • Lack of maternally-derived antibody, eg delayed suckling or naive bitches with no titer.
  • Poor hygiene/husbandry in breeding establishment; failure to isolate bitches during pregnancy and in the immediate post partum period.
  • Lack of thermoregulation in canine neonates.


  • Naive bitch with recent CHV infection.


Neonatal infection
  • Aerosol infection → replication in nasal or oropharyngeal epithelium and lymph nodes. This leads to viremia → localization in reticuloendothelial cells.
  • Systemic infection → petechiation of renal cortex, liver, lungs and lymph nodes, pulmonary edema, splenomegaly and effusions.
  • Infection of eye → retinal dysplasia, panuveitis or retinitis.
Systemic infection of pregnant bitch
  • Infection via respiratory or genital tract → placental infection, placentitis, abortion or fetal mummification.
Adult mucosal infection
  • Aerosol infection → replication in upper respiratory tract → damage to epithelial cells → inflammatory response with serous nasal discharge. Infection of tracheobronchial epithelium (may) → rhinitis Rhinitis.
  • Viremia may occur, but the virus does not localize in tissues.
  • Conjunctivitis may develop.


  • Incubation period 2-7 days.
  • Some puppies born dead.
  • Some puppies die at 2-21 days old.


  • Herpesviruses may cause persistent or latent infections.
  • Latent infection may follow either clinical (any form) or inapparent infection.
  • Latency is established at the site of original infection, and is lifelong.
  • Maternally derived antibody protects against neonatal disease, but not against inapparent infection.
  • Virus is shed in nasal or genital secretions.
  • Up to 80% of healthy dogs have antibodies.
  • Can be a significant problem in breeding kennel without proper management.
  • Replication of CHV is inhibited at adult core body temperature (39°C) - pups over 3 weeks of age do not develop systemic disease.
  • CHV replicates at 37°C, therefore infects the upper respiratory and genital tracts of adult dogs.
  • Puppies thermoregulate poorly, therefore may support systemic CHV replication → generalized infection.
  • Infection of genital tract of bitch leads to infection of puppies in utero or during passage through vagina.
  • Puppies may also be infected by inhalation of virus during contact with other puppies or the bitch, or from fomites.
  • Severity directly related to amount of maternal derived antibody present in pups.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Davidson A P, Grundy S A, Foley J E (2003) Successful medical management of neonatal canine herpes virus; a case report. Theriogenology 3 (1), 115-120.
  • Poulet H, Guigal P M, Soulier M et al (2001) Protection of puppies against canine herpes virus by vaccination of the dams. Vet Rec 148 (22), 691-695 PubMed.
  • Reading M J & Field H J (1999) Detection of high levels of canine herpes virus-1 neutralising antibody in kennel dogs using a novel serum neutralisation test. Res Vet Sci 66 (3), 273-275 PubMed.
  • Reading M J & Field H J (1998) A serological study of canine herpes virus-1 infection in English dog population. Arch Vivol 143 (8), 1477-1488 PubMed.
  • Smith K C (1997) Herpes viral abortion in domestic animals. Vet J 153 (3), 263-268 ScienceDirect.
  • Anvik J O (1991) Clinical considerations of canine herpesvirus infection. Vet Med 86 (4), 394-403 VetMedResource.

Other sources of information

  • Davidson  A P (2013) Canine Herpesvirus Infection. In: Sykes J E, editor. Canine and Feline Infectious diseases. Elselvier. pp 166-169.
  • Greene C E (2012) Infectious diseases of the Dog and Cat. 4th Ed. Elsevier Saunders Inc., St. Louis, MO.
  • Carmichael L E & Greene C E (1990)Canine herpesvirus infection.In: Greene C E (ed)Infectious diseases of the Dog and Cat.Philadelphia: W B Saunders. p 252. (The 'infectious disease' textbook.)