Infectious Canine Hepatitis commonly known as ICH is a worldwide, highly widespread and communicable disease which affects the liver and other organs of dogs. The most important organ is the liver performing useful jobs like producing blood proteins, fats, storing glycogen, vitamins like iron, chemicals and drugs, removing harmful germs and bacteria etc. A disturbance caused to the liver is very serious matter and should be treated as early as possible.
Causes: A dog can catch it through direct contact with an infected animal or other communicable objects like food dishes. Some other way of catching ICH is inhaling through fleas, mosquitoes etc. An exposure to the virus for more than six days leads to the virus multiplying and showing it up in the form of urine, saliva. The virus runs from the tonsils to the lymph and then goes into the blood stream where it stays causing cell damages and disturbing many other organs. Healthy immune system in dogs can prevent the virus by fighting it and manufacturing antibodies. Still the virus can remain in the kidney, which only goes out in the form of urine posing a threat to other dogs.
Symptoms: Dogs suffering from infectious canine hepatitis generally require hospitalisation. The main symptoms are having very high fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Following this, they won't eat anything and will stay dejected all the time. The liver swells, as a result of which the stomach is tucked up and their eyes tear as they are light sensitive.
The most disastrous form of ICH can be seen by bleeding of nose, gums, bloody vomiting, enlarged abdomen, coma and death, may be within six days. Sudden death can also occur in hours in case of small puppies.
To be lucky, most of the cases of infectious canine hepatitis are mild. The dog may catch fever, refuse to eat but may show up better within a couple of days.
A recovery from infectious canine hepatitis, the liver automatically is in the process of repairing itself, but still the virus can cause some kidney infections. But the dog will never be infected again with this virus.
Broadly speaking, there is no cure for infectious canine hepatitis. The treatment given to the dogs is just like a support to them like fasting, blood transfusions etc. Fasting is highly recommended by practitioners at the early stages followed by small easy digestible meals. A good diet like meat, eggs beans and raw food help the dogs to recover its strength to a great extent.
Vaccination: Modified live virus vaccines are available and are generally mixed with other vaccines. These vaccines are to be given at the time of canine distemper vaccinations. Vaccines like CAV-1 and CAV-2 are used, just because they will in very little produce corneal uveitis and the virus does not go away through urine.
Female dogs that are pregnant protect their litters by transferring their antibodies against CAV-1 during gestation and through milk after the puppies' birth. But this protection is temporary in nature. Vaccination protects puppies. However, every year boosters should be given. The time period may vary in each practitioner's opinion.