Infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) is a viral disease that was first recognized as unique to dogs in 1947.
Description. Infectious canine hepatitis is a contagious disease that involves an inflammatory process of the liver that can lead to a loss of function of and, over time, loss of liver tissue from necrosis (death of tissue) and fibrosis/cirrhosis (scarring/shrinkage).
Causes & Transmission. Infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) affects the dog by contact with the oral or nasal surfaces. Following viral reproduction in the tonsils and lymph nodes, the virus spreads to all parts of the body, preferentially infecting cells of the liver. During early stages of infection, the virus is shed in urine, feces, blood, and oral and nasal secretions.
Clinical Signs. The incubation period for canine hepatitis is typically 4-7 days. Dogs with mild illness may be slightly depressed and run a low-grade fever, with complete recovery after a few days. Dogs who continue to run a fever and do not resolve the infection within this time period will go on to show other symptoms such as enlarged lymph nodes and tonsils, abdominal tenderness, diarrhea, and sometimes coughing. Widespread jaundiced skin and hemorrhage can develop as well.
Diagnostic Testing. Two separate blood samples taken on two different days show a rise in antibody level to ICH virus. A diagnosis might also be made based on vaccine history, clinical signs, and laboratory findings.
Treatment. Supportive care, including attention to nutrition, fluid intake, and control of any secondary infections.
Can Humans Get It? There is some evidence that ICH can infect humans, but this still remains to be studied further.