Canine Herpes: All you need to know about canine herpes

Canine Herpes Virus, also known as CHV, is a very serious viral disease in dogs, sometimes even fatal. Countries that have been confirmed to have this disease in existence include Canada, the United States, Japan, Australia, Germany, and England.

CHV is the number one cause of newborn puppy mortality. In puppies, it is considered a lung problem, while in adult dogs it is seen as a reproductive health problem, with symptoms like inflammation in the vagina or foreskin, eye diseases, and upper respiratory infections (URIs). 

For pregnant dogs, contracting CHV in the last few weeks of the pregnancy might result in stillbirth, or if the puppies survive, the disease may be passed on to them before they are born or after birth. Canine herpes is a grave problem for puppies, especially those less than three weeks old, as there is a very thin line between survival and death. Older puppies are more likely to survive but will suffer the long-term effects of CHV infection.

CHV in Adult Dogs

This viral disease is transmitted through direct oral or nasal contact and contact with vaginal fluids from an infected dog. Sexual contact also causes transmission, but this is not the only way the virus can be spread. CHV is also airborne, and dogs can get it by inhaling contaminated airborne particles that are spread via sneezes and coughs. Even just eating drinking from a contaminated bowl, or sniffing or licking an infected dog can cause infection.

As mentioned earlier, an infected mother can transmit the virus to her litter of puppies before birth while in the womb, or after birth via the nose, vagina, or oral fluids. One puppy might be affected or in some cases, the entire litter.

However, a mother dog that was already infected with the disease could be antibodies. This means that when she nurses her puppies, they may gain the antibodies from her and be protected from the disease for a while. It’s hard to know how long the antibodies will last, as this differs from one dog to another.

Canine herpes symptoms

Adult dogs display very mild canine herpes symptoms or even none at all. CHV is not as severe in adult dogs as it is in puppies. Here are tell-tale signs that your adult dog might be having herpes:

  • Eye inflammation
  • Eye discharge
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Genital sores
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Inflamed penis foreskin
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth

Canine Herpes in puppies

Puppies develop CHV in two different ways; if they were more than three weeks old at the time of infection, the virus can develop into an infection of the lungs before it becomes pneumonia. Due to puppies’ weak immune systems, this can be very serious, with the risk of brain damage or blindness.

Normally, a colder temperature is required for dog herpes to replicate. After three weeks, puppies begin to regulate their body temperature, meaning they can now fight off the virus better. For puppies younger than 3 weeks, the disease is more severe and in such cases, symptoms usually show up out of the blue, giving the puppies a survival window of just 48 hours or less.

Canine Herpes symptoms

That said, here are symptoms that your puppy might have contracted CHV:

  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • Less nursing
  • Eye swelling
  • Eye discharge
  • Rash
  • Gray/yellow soft stool
  • Nasal discharge
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Shallow breathing
  • Coughing
  • Crying
  • Red speckles on the skin
  • Cold body temperature
  • Seizures

How to Diagnose, Treat, and Control CHV


Dog herpes is diagnosed by observation of displayed signs and symptoms. Further, your vet may test your dog’s blood samples to check if there are antibodies. If puppies were stillborn or died suddenly, their bodies may be examined for herpes and other diseases. It is important to acquire such information, as it may help with the diagnosis and treatment of the rest of the litter.


CHV is deadly in puppies and many times, not much can be done to salvage the situation. If you begin to notice canine herpes symptoms in your puppy, the first order of business would be to contact your vet immediately. The vet will probably treat your puppy with the following:

  • Antiviral medication
  • Nursing the litter by a mother with antibodies
  • Using antibodies from a mother dog that recovered from herpes
  • Keeping puppies in warm temperatures above 95 degrees

For adult dogs, treatment may not be very necessary, as the disease is mild and symptoms often go away on their own. The following are treatments that your vet may recommend:

  • Pain relievers
  • Eye drops
  • Antibiotics
  • Cough medications


The good news is that European countries administer vaccines for CHV in pregnancy. This has not yet been rolled out in the United States or Canada, but good hygiene is one way of dramatically reducing mortality rates of puppies due to CHV.

What’s more, here are more actions you can take to prevent infection:

  • Isolating new-born puppies for 3 weeks
  • Keeping pregnant dogs in quarantine for 3 weeks before and after they deliver
  • Maintaining puppies’ body temperatures above 95 degrees
  • Nursing new-born puppies from a mother dog with antibodies on day one
  • Cleaning and sterilizing birthing kennels

Frequently Asked Questions

Can humans contract Canine Herpes?

No, humans cannot contract canine herpes.

There are different strains of herpes in human beings, which are HSV-1 and HSV-2.  The canine form of herpes is CHV-1, which can only survive in dog bodies. However, other diseases like ringworm and rabies can spread from animals to people and vice-versa.

Final Thoughts

That is all the information you need to know about Canine Herpes, which is very common in dogs. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of this deadly disease, especially if you breed and sell dogs. One blow of CHV can be disastrous to your business and cause you a lot of irreversible loss, so take heed of the above information. All in all, I hope we all become more aware of how to handle and control the disease.

If you are interested in knowing more about dogs, you can start here: Smells That Dogs Hate, The most popular breeds of dogs, Most Expensive Dog Breeds, How to Prevent Dog Fights, Poodle-Shih Tzu Mix, The German sheprador, Female Italian Dog Names, Spanish Dog Names, Female Dog Names In French, What to do if a Dog Bites You, Mexican Dog Breeds, Foods Toxic to Dogs

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