Infectious Hepatitis in Dogs


Infectious canine hepatitis is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and eyes in dogs. It occurs worldwide, though it is rare in the United States, and it mostly affects young dogs under one year of age, though it can affect adults. Most cases occur in wild or unvaccinated dogs.

In mild cases, your dog will display a mild fever, moderate lethargy, and slight loss of appetite. In this case, your dog will usually recover on its own in about two days.

In more severe cases, your dog can develop a biphasic fever (a fever associated with two different sets of symptoms as it progresses) for one to six days, pass bloody diarrhoea or bloody vomit, tuck up their belly from pain associated with the liver, become sensitive to light (which may cause tearing or squinting), and refuse to eat. Death can occur within a few hours and veterinary attention will need to be sought immediately.

The fatal form of the disease results in a sudden onset of severe symptoms. Bleeding from the nose and gums, enlarged abdomen due to fluid leaking from the liver, bloody diarrhoea and vomit, seizures due to central nervous system association, disorientation, coma, and death may occur. Dogs may die suddenly without any obvious illness. Infectious canine hepatitis is most severe, and the mortality rate is highest, in young dogs. Veterinary attention will need to be sought immediately.


  • Fever
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy
  • runny eyes and nose
  • cough
  • vomiting
  • bleeding under the skin, bruising (may be noticed in the mouth)
  • Jaundice (yellowish tinge to skin)
  • swelling of the head, neck and trunk
  • fluid accumulation in abdomen (ascites)
  • seizures
  • increases thirst and urination (secondary to kidney damage)
  • bluish clouding of cornea is seen in some animals later on in the course of disease (“hepatitis blue eye”)
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