Canine Herpes Virus: One Breeders' Experience
by Susan Finn, Destiny Scottish Terriers

I was concerned about Dana. She had greenish-yellowish matter in the corners of her eyes, her nose was runny, and she had what looked like water blisters on her vagina. Her was her usual happy, silly self, but I wanted to be sure she was in the pink of health, as she had just been bred to Ch. Kriscot's Cool Jazz Finverra, 'Louie'. In fact, nearly all of the dogs had runny eyes and noses. No sneezing or coughing. No high temperatures, they just looked like they all had shared a 'cold'.

So off to the vet we went. I had loved my vet. His practice had grown from a two-vet operation to a large, 24 hour Emergency Vet care facility with six vets and many more interns. This is convenient for middle-of-the-night emergencies, but annoying when the only day 'your' vet is available, is the day you can't make it.

The intern who examined Dana told me that her nose and breathing were fine. Maybe it was a slight irritation or eye infection. He gave me a cream for that and pills for supposed vaginitis. It seemed to have cleared up and I thought no more about it.

My other bitch Kelly, CH. Destiny's Standing Ovation, had already been bred to Ch. Balgair's Encore. Both pregnancies progressed normally and in due time Kelly whelped 5 lovely pups, 3 males and 2 females. No long after, Dana's time came and she whelped 4 beautiful pups; 2 black girls and 2 wheaten males.

Kelly had been a mom before. She kept the box and babies spotlessly clean. Dana, on the other hand, seemed to have a problem with cleaning the pups. I noticed their backsides were dirty and would have to get a basin of warm soapy water to wash the babies. The pups stool was a sort of greenish-yellowish-brown. And I called the vet to be sure it was not caused by the medicine Dana had been on previously. After being assured it was safe I relaxed at bit. The pups were nearly 2 1/2 weeks old. As a breeder, I am so cautious about the pups until they hit their 3rd week of life. By week three it is generally assumed they are going to make it.

The next day I was awakened by a puppy crying fitfully. It was one of the wheaten males. He was pulling his hind feed up to his belly, as if he were colicky. I rubbed his tummy gently and gave him a few drops of diluted Malox. This usually works pretty quickly to soothe the baby's discomfort. This little guy just cried harder. Well, it was obvious I was not going to work that morning. I got dressed and took the little fellow to the vets. By then he was gasping and crying so pitifully, I did not know if he was going to make it or not.
Today's vet was a young fresh-face intern who looked at the puppy, looked at me then asked, "Did you breed this puppy?" somewhat accusingly. I replied that I had. She then said,"Well, you need to get the mother in her for a spay. She should not have been bred. This puppy has megasophagus! The milk is going down his windpipe, he has pneumonia. We could put him into Intensive Care Unit. That is $600.00 for three hours." I felt like I had been clobbered with a 2x4! Yeah, sure, here's my credit card. In a daze I drove home. By the time I walked in the door, the vet had called and said the puppy had died. I called back and asked to have an autopsy done. I checked on the rest of the pups. They seemed ok, if a bit restless. Kelly's litter was quiet. I never believed for a minute it was megasphagus. A condition like that would have been present at birth, and he would have been gagging or choking long before this. I HAD to get to work that afternoon. We were having a management meeting and attendance was mandatory. After the meeting, I began surfing the 'net. Looking for clues, what could it be?

At one site I came across a chart listing Canine Viruses . The fact that these puppies had no fever and no coughing ruled out many of the common virus. However, the Clinical Signs for CHV seemed to match; acute onset and death. Under the "What to do" column was listed the following directions; "Prevent: remove puppies from infected dam by c-section, isolate puppies from infected adults, NO VACCINE." Under the "Why do you care column" was the final clue I needed to confirm MY diagnosis, " Linked to stillbirths, abortions, and infertility. In utero transmission may occur. Fatal to Puppies deaths at 1-3 weeks. Prognosis of puppies which survive is guarded. MAY ALSO BE LINKED TO VESICULAR VAGINITIS IN ADULT FEMALES. Frank, my husband called to say one of Dana's black bitches started fussing. Panicking, I flew home scooped up the pup and rushed her back to the vet. Armed with my internet print-outs I asked what could be done for this little girl. She had a conference with the rest of the available vets and the best they could recommend was a shot of antibiotics, and a human anti-viral medication formulated for human herpes, to be diluted and administered 4 x a day. They also recommended isolation for Dana and the pups. No letting her mingle with any of the house dogs.

The medicines did nothing to help the little black bitch. She died later that evening. By this time, I was bundle of nerves, desperate to find help for these poor babies. Very early Tuesday morning I awoke to a puppy crying in agony. It was the other little black bitch. In less than an hour, she was gone. Late again for work, I didn't much care. I called another vet, one who makes house calls, but she would not be available until Wednesday. I made the appointment and continued watching, waiting and praying. I read somewhere, if you could just get the temperature high enough to kill the virus, the pups may have a chance. But you have to raise it to over 100 degrees for a minimum of three hours. Prior to three weeks of age, newborn puppies can't regulate their own body temperature. That's why newborns must be kept warm. AFTER three weeks, the puppies can spike a fever on their own and kill the virus. You have to imitate nature and artificially raise the temperature. Frank tried rigging up a makeshift incubator for the last of Dana's pups, and our favorite, a pretty wheaten boy. He used a cooler with a reflector bulb for heat, but the puppy died just as he was ready to place him in the incubator. My husband and I were devastated. All of Dana's puppies were gone. She was pining and looking for her babies. We quickly cleaned up her room and removed all traces of a canine nursery. Frank took her for a walk and played soccer with her to help get her mind off her missing babies.
That night I turned all of the heaters in Kelly's room on high. I sat in shorts and a tee shirt with a bottle of Pedialyte hydrating pups and mom while the temperature hovered at 101. Meanwhile, I was babbling prayers half aloud "please God, please God, don't let the virus get Kelly's pups, please God…" Well, God must have been busy because by Wednesday one of Kelly's males started crying that agonizing wail. He died early that morning and not long after, his little black brother began crying. The veterinarian arrived just before lunch. She concurred that it CHV. She helped the little black male over to the Rainbow Bridge with a shot of Phenobarbital. At that point, I lost it. I had tried to hold together for not only my girls and the rest of my dogs, but my husband, Frank, does not tolerate difficult situations very well. So I have to be strong and hang in there. Watching the life leave another little body, so peacefully, where before it had been crying in agony, I just couldn't take anymore. I asked the vet to please check the rest of the puppies. If there was any indication that these last three would be infected with the virus I asked her to put the puppies down now. It was just too horrible to watch them suffer so terribly before they succumbed.

Dr. Beverly carefully examined each puppy. She concluded that their lungs sounded clear and in her opinion, did not (yet) have the virus. As a precaution, she entrusted me with three syringes of the Phenobarbital to inject into the puppies' stomachs should they begin to show the symptoms of the virus.

On Thursday, the day the puppies were 21 days old, the three were still alive; one tiny black female who we thought would have been the first to go, because of her size, a big red bridle girl, and a nice sized brindle boy. Their body temperatures were all about 102.1, just about normal, and just high enough to fight the virus. By the following Monday, the three syringes of Phenobarbital were still in the refrigerator. Later that evening, Dr. Beverly stopped by and declared us "out of the woods"! We were so grateful for salvaging these three little lives, yet we wondered and grieved for the six sweet babies who didn't make it.

A year and a half later, Dana was bred again to Louie. She easily whelped six healthy babies. Kelly's next litter total 4, but 2 were stillborn. Since I had planned on it being Kelly's last litter, I had her spayed. Kelly's surviving pups from the CHV, are all healthy grown dogs.

For the average dog owner, Canine Herpes Virus poses no real threat. In adult dogs signs are mild if at all visible: discharge from eyes, and noses or blisters on the vagina or penis. Most dogs are exposed to the virus by 2 years of age and develop antibodies to fight the virus should it reoccur. It is only the pregnant bitches who have never been exposed to the disease that are at the highest risk for abortion, stillbirths and neonatal deaths. Remember to keep young, newly bred bitches sequestered as much as possible from other dogs during the Six week 'Danger Period' from 3 weeks prior to three weeks after whelping. Use a bleach solution for cleaning the whelping area and mix a fresh solution each day using 1 part CLOROX bleach to 30 parts water. Do not let the bitch in whelp share toys, chews or waterbowls with other dogs. A bit of safeguarding now, will save you many tears and heartaches later.

Susan H. Finn
Destiny Scotties


We thank Susan Finn for sharing this information. Frank and Susan Finn, All Star Kennels are well known breeders of champion Scottish Terriers. Breeding is not a venture to be into entered lightly. A great deal of knowledge and dedication is required to breed and raise healthy Scottish Terrier puppies.