Q: I have been told recently that puppies (like humans) can contract the HERPES VIRUS. Is this true?
A: Before I answer that question directly, allow me to make a few introductory comments.
Some of you may recall that, a few decades ago, there was a great awareness of the Herpes virus in humans – especially in the sexually active human population. I vaguely recall that both “TIME” and “NEWSWEEK” magazines carried this ailment in their respective cover page stories. It seemed that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like Syphilis and Gonorrhea had been removed to the back burner and replaced by Herpes.
Then came AIDS – and that pushed all other STDs off the entire stove. Sadly, now we do not speak too often about these ailments. We have had SARS and Ebola and now COVID-19 to contend with. But Herpes, in all of its various types is still lurking around – as are all the others mentioned above. But this Herpes is a very special virus. Scientists contend that it has infected hominids even before they were humans (over 6 million years ago). This virus accompanied us in our evolutionary journey and remains with us – very actively – to this day. All very interesting.
But now we must answer the question properly.
Yes puppies (and adult dogs) do fall ill to the Herpes Virus (HV). It assails puppies between 5 days to three weeks of age.
Q: What are the symptoms of a Herpes Virus infection in puppies?
A: (i) Puppies become listless and are unwilling to nurse (suckle).
(ii) They exhibit signs of discomfort. For example, they cry a lot and react painfully, if one touches the abdomen.
(iii) The abdomen is often bloated.
(iv) Sometimes a diarrhoea develops (green-yellow stool).
(v) Difficulty breathing/shivering/seizures
(vi) There is a relatively sudden onset of this ailment in the newborn pup. The pup is fine one day and by the next day it is dead.
Q: How does the puppy acquire the HV infection?
A: In all likelihood, especially since this disease shows itself so soon after birth, the pup contracts the ailment from the mother while she is actually giving birth to her puppies. That is, as the puppies pass through the mother dog’s vagina. But let us be clear on this matter: the pups can also be infected by the oral and/or nasal secretions of the mother dog as she licks them soon after birth. There are researchers on this disease who maintain the pups can be infected even while they are still in their mother’s womb.
It should be noted that it is highly likely that another adult dog, carrying the Canine Herpes Virus (CHV) and visiting your kennel, can in fact transmit the disease.
Q: Can humans get Canine Herpes Virus from their dogs and vice versa?
A: NO – on both counts. Herpes simplex Virus (I and II) cannot be transmitted to adult dogs/puppies. Similarly, the Canine Herpes Virus has not been proven to affect humans, and believe me when I say that a serious amount of research has been carried out on the transmissibility of this disease.
In fact, let me promise that later, in these Pet Care columns, I will deal with diseases that can be transmitted between companion animals (pets) and humans and vice versa.
Q: Are there vaccines against Canine Herpes Virus?
A: NO.
Now, the good news relative to Canine Herpes Virus:
1) Over the years, veterinarians here in Guyana have been confronted with neonates exhibiting symptoms reminiscent of CHV in puppies. However, the existence of CHV in canines (newborn, young and adult) has not been identified scientifically. It is quite possible that this disease does not exist here in the Republic. Also, this virus seems not to flourish in hot temperature environments. Nevertheless, as I have written above, this disease in an insidious but quick killer. Please be on the lookout for the described symptoms in the newborn litters, and, if they are evident, rush to your vet.
2) Should this disease exist in Guyana, or whether our country is vulnerable to these microorganisms reaching our shores, in spite of all the good work State Veterinarians are doing to keep diseases out of Guyana, the ease of international travel (notwithstanding the current COVID-19 restrictions which would not last forever), and the porous nature of our borders make it imperative that we must always be conscious of the possibility of this virus breaching our defenses. We must therefore introduce in our homes and kennels such preventative measures that would help in reducing the possibility of infections and their spread. This means (primarily) keeping the kennel and the immediate surrounding environment clean, especially before, during and after the whelping season/period.

Enjoy the Navratri celebrations.