ICH is a highly contagious viral disease which affects mostly dogs – but also foxes and wolves, even bears – globally. This disease was first written about not so long ago (in the late 1940s), but has since been described on all continents. It can survive for months at room temperature here in the tropics, and it can exist outside of the dog’s body. ICH must not be confused with Hepatitis in humans. As the name suggests, the organ most affected is the liver, but ICH also affects the kidneys, lungs, and the lining of the blood vessels.
Q: HOW IS THE DISEASE (ICH) TRANSMITTED?
A: Ingestion of faeces, urine and/or saliva of infected dogs.
Note that dogs can recover, but can still shed the virus for more than 6 months.
A few days after the dog is exposed to the ICH virus, the virus is able to multiply within the body and symptoms begin to be exhibited
Q: WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ICH?
A: The symptoms associated with this ailment may vary from a slight fever to debilitation and death. The symptoms are mostly:-
1) Diarrhoea (later with blood accompaniment).
2) Initially a fever develops to about 40°C (104℉). This lasts from just under a week, during which time the defence mechanism (white blood cells) reduces in its efficacy.
4) Loss of appetite.
5) Diarrhoea and vomiting lead to dehydration.
6) Thirst becomes quite visible.
As the ICH disease weakens the infected animals, especially puppies, they may exhibit:
1) A production of slimy/watery discharge from the eyes and nostrils.
2) A reaction of pain to the touch (especially of the abdomen and the extremities).
3) An abnormal puffy sub-cutaneous accumulation of fluid (emerging around the head and neck), which can actually be palpated.
4) An enlargement of the tonsils, which are usually secluded; they become visible within the oral cavity.
5) Petechial bleeding (blotches of blood can be seen below the skin).
6) Squinting of the animal’s eyes, in reacting to sunlight.
7) A Central Nervous System (brain) involvement, which leads to convulsions and even paralysis.
It must be mentioned that after the initial onset of the disease, the symptoms may subside. Often, at this point, at least a quarter of the infected dogs will develop a cloudiness/opacity of the cornea (the outer transparent covering coat of the eyeball). This “Blue Eye” condition will usually clear up (even without veterinary intervention). Actually, practicing veterinarians have had to confront a “Blue Eye” reaction after vaccination against ICH. This condition disappears within a week of administering the vaccine.
[Now that the signs associated with ICH have been documented, one will notice the similarity with the symptoms of Canine Distemper. Be clear that these are two quite different viral ailments].
As was mentioned previously when discussing the therapy for Canine Distemper, Canine Parvovirus and Leptospirosis (see previous “Pet Care” columns), the veterinary interventions/advice will focus on alleviating the pain and suffering of the sick animal. So, for example, if the dog is showing discomfort to the bright sunshine, it must be removed and be protected from such stress. Similarly, the treatment against dehydration (caused by vomiting and diarrhoea) would be drip rehydration; and of course, medication against vomiting and diarrhoea may be introduced.
When ICH was extremely prevalent, it was customary for vets to use Vitamin B Complex and B12 as supportive treatments, and quite successfully.
An ICH vaccine is available within the polyvalent vaccine, referred to previously, and must be introduced at the appropriate time and under a very specific veterinary protocol and regime.
Please note that ICH is not transmissible to humans or to cats.
Q: WHAT DISINFECTANT CAN THE CAREGIVER CONFIDENTLY USE ON THE IMMEDIATE SURROUNDING ENVIRONMENT?
A: A 3 % (hypochlorite) household bleach, used at least twice weekly on the dog’s immediate environment, is quite effective.